Interview With Judith Sterling
Judith Sterling is an award-winning author of two series comprising eight novels, including the recently published Return of the Raven, the final book in her Novels of Ravenwood series. Not to worry—“final” doesn’t mean we’ve seen the last of her. She’s currently hard at work on the final book in her Guardians of Erin series and has yet another series planned after that. Judith is joining us today to talk about her series, her passion for the paranormal, her interesting side gig, and much more. (Bet you can’t guess how old she was when she wrote her first story. Go ahead—take a guess!) Be sure to check out the enchanting excerpts from Return of the Raven toward the bottom of this page.
Welcome, Judith—and congratulations on completing the final book in your Novels of Ravenwood series! Tell us about Return of the Raven.
Thank you! From the very first book, Flight of the Raven, I planned for this one: the romantic tale of Margaret, Lady Ravenwood (from A.D. 1081) and Griffin Nightshade (from 1957). Not just a romance, it shows how their love and influence helped to shape the destinies of characters in the first four novels. Meg and Griff are true soulmates, and it’s been a privilege to tell their story.
Your series is a fascinating combination of genres—medieval, romance, and paranormal. What drew you to this particular combination?
My first degree was in history—British history, in particular—and I’ve always loved the medieval period. I also love romance. As for the paranormal, I’ve experienced it my whole life, so it naturally finds its way into my books.
Each novel in the series features a different hero and heroine. Which protagonist is your favorite—and why?
All of them are unique. Honestly, I can’t pick a favorite character! I’m a mom, and it’d be like choosing one child over another. Impossible to do when you love them unconditionally.
You’re an award-winning author! Can you tell us how that came to be?
My first award was for The Cauldron Stirred, the first book in my YA series. It won Best Paranormal in the N. N. Light Book Awards, and I was so grateful!
This isn’t your only series. Can you give us a brief summary of your young adult series, Guardians of Erin?
It’s the story of Ashling Donoghue and her family, Americans who travel to Ireland and find love, paranormal adventure, and destinies greater than they ever could’ve imagined. The supernatural race known as the Tuatha Dé Danann plays a major role in the series.
What are you currently working on?
The Spear Alight, the fourth and final book in my Guardians of Erin series. It’s due to my editor on April 1! As soon as I finish that, I’ll start on a gothic mystery series I’ve outlined.
How old were you when you wrote your first story?
Three. I always wanted to be an author.
Are you an outliner or a pantser?
I outline books and series, so I know exactly where I’m going and where to lay important clues along the way. But my characters still surprise me!
Which element of novel-writing do you consider most challenging? (Plot, setting, characters, dialogue, etc.)
Sex scenes (only in The Novels of Ravenwood, not the YA books!) are the most challenging. Dialogue is the easiest.
Do you base your characters on real people or make them up from scratch?
Some have elements of people I know, including me, but they’re definitely their own entities.
What kinds of books do you like to read?
I read romance, mystery, history, fantasy, and the paranormal.
What was your favorite childhood book?
Moon Eyes by Josephine Poole.
What’s your favorite book of all time?
I have so many favorites, but maybe Lady of Hay by Barbara Erskine.
What’s your favorite childhood memory?
That’s a tough choice, but I’d have to go with memories of the Haunted Mansion ride at Disney World. I must’ve ridden it a hundred times because I grew up an hour from Orlando. I always thought it’d be fun to have a slumber party inside the Haunted Mansion.
You’re going to Mars with the first SpaceX group. The essentials will be provided, but you’re allowed to bring one personal item. What will you bring?
Hopefully, my husband! He’s my best friend. Of course, it’d be hard to leave our kids—identical-twin boys—behind. Not sure I could do it. Can we all go?
What do you like to do in your spare time?
Travel, watch classic movies with my family, and investigate the paranormal. I also enjoy teaching history in my part-time job as tour guide at The Witch House, the home of Jonathan Corwin, one of nine judges during the Salem Witch Trials of 1692.
What’s something you’re good at?
What superpower would you like to have?
To heal any injury or illness instantly.
What’s your favorite place to visit?
Anywhere in the British Isles. I lived in England and Scotland for a time and still have family in Ireland.
What was your favorite thing to do when you were a kid?
Either read or write. I loved both equally.
Would you rather…
Lose the ability to read or lose the ability to speak?
Lose the ability to read. You can always listen to audiobooks!
Travel back in time or visit a far-off planet of highly intelligent, benevolent beings?
Can I do both? I can’t choose!!!
Be in jail for a year or die one year sooner than you woul
d have otherwise?
Die one year sooner.
Be able to teleport or read minds?
Teleport, like my characters in the Guardians of Erin series!
Lie on a beach or hike in the woods?
Hike in the woods. Despite the fact I was born and raised in Florida, the sun is my nemesis!
Be an amazing artist or a brilliant mathematician?
Be able to fly or able to breathe underwater?
Be forced to eat nothing but spicy food or nothing but bland food for the rest of your life?
I’ll take the bland food, please.
Live the rest of your life on the equator or in the Arctic Circle?
Be twenty and dirt-poor or sixty and fabulously wealthy?
Sixty and rich as heck!
Never have to clean a bathroom again or never have to do dishes again?
Never clean a bathroom!
Lose a limb or be without a cell phone for the rest of your life?
I can easily live without a cell phone. Believe it or not, I don’t have one now
Return of the Raven (The Novels of Ravenwood, Book Five)
Margaret, Lady Ravenwood, is trapped in a loveless marriage and firmly entrenched in the medieval world. Along comes Griffin Nightshade, a historian from the future whose soul resonates with hers. He persuades her to return with him to the 1950s, but heeding her heart means courting danger from a curse that could spell her doom.
Haunted by his parents' sudden deaths, Griffin knows all too well the pain born of love lost. He guards his emotions, but Margaret delves deep and goes straight to the soul. She's hard to resist…and harder to set free.
The heart's desire and history's demands don't always agree. Yet true love is eternal.
Dressed in blue-striped pajamas, Griffin stood in front of his bed. His gaze shifted back and forth between two books. Usually, he was a decisive reader, but tonight was different. He’d had Margaret on the mind the entire time he perused the library shelves, and even now, the sound of her bathwater filling the tub next door plagued his focus.
Nevertheless, he’d narrowed the choice to two books: Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s The Hound of the Baskervilles or Dennis Wheatley’s The Devil Rides Out. He’d read both before and enjoyed them immensely, so he couldn’t go wrong with either one.
So what’s it going to be? Murder on the moors or black magic on Salisbury Plain?
Margaret’s clear-toned voice penetrated the wall between their bedrooms. She was humming the first part of the sonata he’d played tonight. Not only did she have an ear for language; she also had one for music. She had perfect pitch, too, as did he, which allowed him to discern that she hummed the exact same notes he’d played on the Steinway. Her singing voice was just as lovely as he’d imagined it might be.
His brow furrowed. He had no business imagining anything about her, least of all her naked body slipping into a warm bath and—
Stop! He huffed and rubbed his mouth with his hand. Then he refocused his attention on the books for the umpteenth time. Come on now. Murder or magic? Magic or murder?
“Griff!” A note of panic tinged her voice.
Meg! In trouble!
He dashed into the hall and into her bedroom, then flung open the bathroom door. She stood in the bathtub, clad in bubbles whose brethren spilled over the side of the tub onto the floor. Luckily, the white foam covered all but her neck, head, and one shoulder.
“There’s too much of it.” She gestured to the mess and sent a cluster of bubbles flying through the air.
“I can see that. Are you hurt?”
“No, just unnerved. They kept building and building until I feared they might cover the entire chamber.”
“First, let’s turn off the water.” He reached into the sea of foam, found the faucets, and twisted each one in turn. “How much of the soapy liquid did you use?”
“The whole bottle.”
His eyes widened. “Well, that explains it. Only a small amount is necessary.”
“When Hannah showed me how to use it, she simply turned the bottle upside down to demonstrate pouring. I assumed all of the liquid was needed.” With a rueful expression, she looked around her. “Obviously not.”
She was adorable. And underneath those bubbles, she was nude. Time to go!
“Well, I’m glad ʼtwas nothing serious. I’ll just be going now.” With an about face, he headed for the door.
Uh oh. What does she want now? He turned back around.
“I must know something, and you’re the only one who can help me know it.”
A warning bell pealed in his mind and urged his heart to quicken its pace. “What do you want to know?”
“Earlier, you called me attractive, but you haven’t seen all of me.”
Only by the grace of those bubbles! Did she intend to bare all? No…modesty would prevent that. But the look in her eye—that steady gleam of determination—made him nervous. “Surely you don’t mean—”
“I do. All of my married life, Evoric has mocked me and deemed me unappealing.”
“To him mayhap.” Or eunuchs. Otherwise…
Adamantly, she shook her head. “To all men. Or so he says.”
He is such a sleaze. “He’s just trying to make excuses for his own failure.”
“That may be, but I’ll never know for certain unless you look upon me yourself and give me your honest opinion.”
Dear God. How did I get myself into this mess? “I really think ʼtis better if—”
“Griff.” Her violet eyes pleaded with him. “I know I’ve asked a lot from you, but I need this. Otherwise, I’ll wonder about it the rest of my life.”
How could he deny her the chance to rebuild her self-confidence? He took a deep breath, pushed it out, and braced for what would come. “Very well. Show yourself to me.”
Held in the ballroom of a nearby hotel, the after-party boasted a band of musicians, savory food, a variety of drinks, and a three-tier, white-frosted cake. After consuming a sizeable portion of said cake and a goodly amount of fruit punch, Margaret sat beside Griffin against the wall, watching the other guests and the happy couple interact.
The bride and groom took to the dance floor and moved as though they were one body, which in essence they now were. Frank and Hannah also danced, talking and laughing as they often did around the manor.
Oh to be so happily joined with another. If only…
There it was again: the recurring, inevitable “if only.” Her nights were full of them. She lay in bed staring up at the darkened canopy, wishing he were there beside her. Perhaps ʼtwas wanton and wrong, or by some standards, ridiculous.
But the heart wants what it wants. Hers wanted Griffin. Not just for a day or even a year but forever. She loved him. ʼTwas as simple—and as complicated—as that.
He turned to her now, and his warm, brown eyes sparkled with an invitation. “Shall we dance?”
Her stomach dropped. “I don’t know how.”
He gestured to the dancing couples. “Look at the other women. And see that little boy and girl? If they can do it, so can we. You’ll put your left hand on my shoulder, and your right hand will hold mine. Then you’ll move your feet when I do. Don’t worry. I’ll guide you.”
“Well…” The need to touch him, to feel his hands on her again, outweighed her doubt. “I’ll try.”
He led her to the dance floor, and she did as he instructed. Leisurely, they began to move.
Always the teacher. What might I learn in your bed?
Heat flushed her cheeks. Thankfully, the dance was slow; perfect for a beginner such as she. But the gentle pace enfolded them in a mantle of intimacy.
“This song is called ‘When I Fall in Love.’” His voice was soft and low.
He nodded in silence.
Aye, ʼtis very much like falling. Like stepping off the side of a cliff. Once you take that step, there’s no turning back and no stopping what’s to come.
What would come of her feelings? Heartache? “The melody is pleasing.”
“I’ve always thought so.”
She looked up at him and gazed into his eyes. “You were right. Dancing isn’t as difficult as I thought.” A grin escaped her lips. “Of course, ʼtwould be easier in different shoes.” Her “kitten heels” turned every step into a dare.
His smile stole her breath. “They’re not very practical, are they?”
“No. Nor are they comfortable.” She longed to kick them off and wiggle her cramped toes, but that must wait till later.
“You look lovely, though.”
Suddenly, the discomfort seemed worthwhile, and her heart shifted to a rhythm livelier than their dance. “Thank you. You look good yourself.”
“Thank you. You smell nice, too. Roses?”
“Aye.” His scent seemed an intoxicating mixture of nutmeg, cinnamon, and musk. “A new bubble bath.”
“I trust you had a better experience this time around.”
She gave him a rueful grin. “Easier perhaps, but not better. You weren’t there.”
His eyes darkened, beckoned her into their depths. “Meg.” He sounded breathless.
Her heart fluttered. “I should’ve made some excuse to summon you again. Would you have come?”
“I would have.”
“Would you have helped me from the tub?”
“If you needed help.”
Everything else in the ballroom faded into insignificance. There was only him. “What if I needed another kiss?”
His gaze dropped to her lips. “No one needs a kiss.”
“I beg to differ.” She needed so much more than that. Her stomach quivered. “But mayhap I should beg for something else.”
“Such as?” His husky voice caressed her ears.
“Use your imagination, Griff. You’ll think of something.”
He pulled her closer. The heat of his body mingled with hers. “You really shouldn’t say such things.”
“Why not? I’m thinking them.” And feeling things I never dreamed I could. Until you.
“I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again. You’re dangerous.”
She winced. “And you’re on my foot.”
“Oh!” The pressure on her toes eased as he removed his foot. The song ended, and they stilled. “Forgive me. I’m a bit…flustered.”
You’re also irresistible. “I know how you can make amends.”
“Kiss me.” She held her breath.
Judith Sterling is an award-winning author whose love of history and passion for the paranormal infuse everything she writes. Whether penning medieval romance (The Novels of Ravenwood) or young adult paranormal fantasy (the Guardians of Erin series), her favorite themes include true love, destiny, time travel, healing, redemption, and finding the hidden magic which exists all around us. She loves to share that magic with readers and whisk them far away from their troubles, particularly to locations in the British Isles.
Her nonfiction books, written under Judith Marshall, have been translated into multiple languages. She has an MA in linguistics and a BA in history, with a minor in British Studies. Born in that sauna called Florida, she craved cooler climes, and once the travel bug bit, she lived in England, Scotland, Sweden, Wisconsin, Virginia, and on the island of Nantucket. She currently lives in Salem, Massachusetts with her husband and their identical twin sons.
Social Media Links
Website – https://judithmarshallauthor.com/
The Wild Rose Press – https://www.thewildrosepress.com/authors/judith-sterling