Are you ready for another SSV Author Interview and Review series release?
Yes? Let’s roll!
Bookaholic Olga had a chat with K.L. Schwengel, the author of fantasy novel First of Her Kind, and set up an insider’s look behind the screens into K.L.’s writing and life. Soo had so much fun reading the interview that she had to ask the author a few follow up questions that have been added to the whole. The links to enter the Evil Villain Contest, Olga’s book review for First of Her Kind and more are at the end of the post.
How long have you been writing? Why did you start?
I’ve been writing ever since I was a kid. In school, when I should have been taking notes, I was writing stories. Nothing really came of it. Then life intervened, and I followed my artistic muse instead. More life intervened, but I always wrote. The problem was: I never finished anything.
A handful of years ago I decided I was either going to get serious and finish what I started, or abandon it altogether. I found out abandoning it wasn’t an option. I’m not sure why I started. Probably because then, as now, there were all these characters running around in my head demanding I tell their tale. You can only keep them bottled up for so long.
You can’t abandon the stories. Which story or book did you finish first? Has it been published?
I honestly don’t remember the name of the first story I every finished. It was in the late 80′s probably. A fantasy, of course. I sent it off to Marion Zimmer Bradley for an anthology. It was rejected, but I received the most encouraging, personal hand-written rejection letter. Of course, I’ve unfortunately lost it. Both the rejection and the story.
How do you develop your plot and characters? What comes first, the plot or the characters?
Usually it’s the character and a situation that come first. From that, I develop a plot. I’m a complete pantser. Although I generally do know the ending and have it written well before I’m done with the rest of the story.
I’m pretty sure I know what you mean by “pantser” but can you define it for us?
Pantser = I don’t outline. I start writing and let the story and characters take me where they will. I have an idea of where I’m going. Usually that’s just in my head (scarey place to visit, trust me!) although I will make notes, and jot down ideas. But there’s not chapter by chapter map.
Do you outline your stories first or do you follow your inspiration wherever it takes you?
I follow my erratic inspiration. I have an ‘idea’ of where I want to go, some signposts along the way, certain things I want to see happen—but as far as laying out what’s going to happen chapter by chapter, no such thing exists in my world. My characters have a habit of making a mess out of even the loosest outline.
What is harder for you to write: a Good guy/girl or a Villain? Why?
It’s infinitely harder for me to write the good guy. Usually even my good guys end up slightly tarnished. I think because I see the truly good guys as… well… a bit boring.
Okay, I know, there are probably stellar examples of interesting good guys and gals, but if they don’t have that hint of villainy they lose me. Villains tend to get a bad rap, and most of them should. We tend to look at them as the guy in the Black Hat, and that’s all we see. But something, at some time, pushed them over the edge and made them choose that Black Hat. All of us, I think, have that potential and it’s rather fun to explore it in a safe and controlled environment.
Who is your favorite Villain?
Oh, that’s a tough one. The first one that pops into my head is Sikkukkut from C. J. Cherryh’s Chanur series. Villains who have that smooth, oily, feel–yeah, like that.
How did you come up with the title? Is the title important to you?
Titles are always very important to me. For the longest time Between Darkness & Light was my working title, and among my Betas it was referred to as BD&L. I always knew that was more of a theme for the series, but I hadn’t settled on anything I liked for a title until I was nearly done with final rounds of editing. I heard a similar line in a song and it just clicked. It is, after all, what Ciara is.
What was the hardest part about writing this book for you? What was the easiest?
The hardest part of writing this book (and, for me, any book) is finishing. That sounds like such a simple thing, you start, you finish. But I suffer from extreme rewriteritis. I tend to want to make every sentence perfect before moving on. I get mired in editing and rewriting, polishing and honing, before I ever get through. Then I lose interest and it goes into a file. I have to force myself, on the first draft, not to look back. Not to worry if things aren’t quite right. That’s what editing is for.
The easiest part… the second, third, fourth, fifth drafts. Okay, so maybe that wasn’t easy, but it was more fun. Because I had the structure, the bones, and now I got to start fleshing it out, adding details, and giving depth to characters and scenes.
Why did you end this story with a cliff hanger? Why not reward your protagonist for all her suffering and then start a new story about her in a new book?
Because not everything ends with Happily Ever After and because on a personal level, I’m a big fan of cliff hangers. Seriously. If The End is just that, I might fall out of love with the characters in the time between installments and have no real reason to pick up the next installment. But if I’m dying to know what comes next, if I’m left without complete resolution… it’s like having that desert tray next to the table and knowing I’m not allowed to touch it until I’ve finished my meal. The biggest reason, I suppose, is because Ciara’s story doesn’t end after Book One. This is just the beginning for her. One step in her journey. Bolin’s as well, though his story started long before First of Her Kind.
As a side note, I never really thought of the ending as a “cliff hanger” per se, so I’m surprised to hear it called that by several readers now. Surprised and, yes, a wee bit delighted.
Do you have a favorite cliff hanger?
Joe Abercrombie and any one of The First Law books.
What is the most surprising thing you discovered while writing this book?
That there’s a lot more of me in some of my characters than I care to admit. And also, I can put a lot of words down in a day when I’m on a roll.
You write fantasy. Do you think it needs research? What kind?
Absolutely. At least for me, it does.
- Herbal Medicines
- How far can a horse and cart travel in a day?
I’ve researched all of that. I’ve even gone so far as to check the etymology of words to make sure they fit. Even though I’m not creating historical fantasy, my world has a medieval feel to it, and I think it helps draw the reader in when certain details have familiarity to them. If everything is strange and unique, it’s like having too much to look at. Plus, *I* need to know. I sometimes get hung up in details, even when I’m not using them in the story.
So, yeah, research. A lot.
How many books/stories have you written? Which is your favorite?
Well, if you’re talking finished… under ten. It’s very hard to pick a favorite. There is a fantasy piece due to come out in an anthology this summer that I’m quite fond of because I interjected a bit more humor into it. I love the characters in it and the interplay between them.
What is the name of the short story and the anthology that is coming out??
The story’s title is A Woman’s Scorn. The anthology should be coming out mid-summer. I don’t think a final title has been decided on. Or, more likely, um . . . I just haven’t asked.
You made the decision to self-publish. Why? Did you consider going the traditional route? What are advantages and disadvantages of self-publishing in today’s publishing world?
A lot has been written on the topic of self-publishing vs. traditional. I did a couple blog posts myself when I made the decision. It wasn’t an easy one for me because I was a dyed in the wool traditionalist. Never, ever, was I going to stray from that path. I had my list of dream agents, my query letter polished, and had started First of Her Kind on the first set of rounds.
Ironically, research I was doing to find reasons NOT to go the independent route is what caused me to do just that. In the end, what it boiled down to was control. Yes, I’m a bit of a control freak. Being an independent allowed me to have my fingers in every aspect of my book’s success or failure.
The downside of that? I have my fingers in every aspect of my book’s success or failure. Truly the proverbial double-edged sword. You have to be okay with all the aspects of putting your book out there: marketing, book keeping, editing decisions, timelines, etc. But, a lot of that is falling on the authors even when they sign with one of the Big Six.
What do you like to do when you are not writing?
Work my dogs. I raise Australian Shepherds and keep a small flock of sheep. I compete with my dogs in stock dog trials, and also help other folks train their dogs to do the same. I break that up with spending time with my family, camping, getting together with friends, and reading.
How did you get into raising and training Australian Shepherds?
As a child, one of my favorite authors was Albert Payson Terhune. He wrote books about Collies. I loved Collies and always wanted one — had a couple of mixes growing up. Through high school and college I got into riding horses. The lady that owned the stable where I rode raised Aussies. I fell in love with them and forgot all about Collies. I believe the heritage of a breed should be preserved. Aussies are working dogs. If I was going to have them, they were going to work. So we do.
What is your preference: Ebook or print? Why?
As a reader or a writer?
As a reader, I love my Kindle for ease of packing and portability. But having an actual book in your hands—bending the spine back, carrying it with the cover curled over while you read and cook at the same time (please, don’t attempt this at home), actually turning the pages… and the smell of paper and ink… there’s nothing that compares to it.
As a writer, I love the physicality of the print book. Being able to sign it and hand it over to someone else has an immediacy and a tangibility about it that makes the relationship with the reader somehow more personal.
What is one thing your readers would be most surprised to learn about you?
Oh boy, this is a tough one. I’m not sure there is anything really surprising about me, I’m rather normal. Well, normal in my definition of the word, I guess. I’m the youngest of nine children. Does that qualify as surprising? I write standing up, because my day job (yes, that pesky thing) keeps me on my butt nine hours a day. That might be something.
What’s the layout for you to write standing up? Do you stand at a counter? Adjustable platform desk?
My hubby made me a workstation. Basically a long counter that’s the right height. It’s not adjustable, but my secondary monitor is. I have a stool if I feel the need to perch, but usually don’t. I might add a balance board so I can <strike>fall off</strike> get some exercise while working. It’s important to stay physically fit, you know.
If you could have one paranormal ability, what would it be? Why?
Oh boy! Um… I think I would go with psychokinesis. Not because I’m lazy, but because I’m not as strong as I often think I am, and it would be great to be able to move things with thought alone.
Could you tell us a little about your future writing plans?
I’m currently finishing up the first draft of Book Two in the Between Darkness & Light series. Emergence is longer and more involved than First of Her Kind. It is also a little darker in spots. You’ll see the relationships deepen. The characters are going through some changes that aren’t easy for them—or me. More characters are introduced and bring with them levels of tension (and humor) that may be unexpected. The ending is already written and, yes, there will be a third book.
Along with that, I’m working on an Urban Fantasy/Paranormal Romance that I’d like to have out by the end of the year as well. It’s a modern day tale involving angels, demons, and other supernatural sorts. The working title is Crossing Paths.
There are a couple other projects I’m involved in that should see fruition this summer.
Tell us something about First of Her Kind that is NOT in the blurb.
Wow, this question is tougher than it seems. *drums fingers on keyboard* Okay, how about this? Ciara’s power, the one her aunt calls the wilding, first manifests itself when her mother dies. In grief and anger, Ciara strikes out against the unfortunate healer tending her mother. Her step-father pushes him aside, saving his life, but Ciara’s outburst still manages to destroy the side of their house.
Did the interview tease your brain about the author K.L. Schwengel? Find out more about her and her work on her website.