It is my pleasure to welcome novelist K.M. Weiland to the Yodeling Dwarf. She has agreed to endure an interrogation--er, interview. And if that wasn't kind enough, she's giving away a signed copy of her new book, Behold the Dawn, to one of you lucky Yodeling Dwarf readers! I'm reading it right now and loving both the intriguing plot and the entrancing writing style
I met K.M. Weiland through a mutual friend who told me to add her on Facebook. In fact, this guy, Sterling Woomert, is mentioned in the acknowledgments of Behold the Dawn as a valued critique-er. Pretty cool, huh? And now the interview...
Jacob: First, why don’t you tell us a bit about your latest book. What’s the premise?
K.M.:Behold the Dawn is a medieval epic, set against the backdrop of the Third Crusade at the end of the 12th century. It tells the story of Marcus Annan, a renowned competitor in the brutal tourneys—the huge mock battles that remained wildly despite being banned by more than one pope. Annan, haunted by the secrets of his past, is confronted by a mysterious monk who demands that Annan help him seek vengeance for a wrong committed sixteen years earlier. Against his will, Annan is drawn into the conflict, and he journeys to the Crusade in the Holy Land, where he rescues the widow of an old friend and attempts to deliver her to safety in Constantinople. But he soon discovers that the past he’s been running from is finally catching up, and if he hopes to survive, he has no chance but to face it.
Jacob: You live in the sand hills of western Nebraska. What drew your imagination all the way to the Third Crusade?
K.M.: That’s the magnificent thing about imagination: It knows no bounds! I’m really a pretty eclectic person. I’m interested in so many historical eras, and I want to explore them all. But the Middle Ages has always held a special allure for me. I grew up with stories of Robin Hood and William Wallace, Ivanhoe and King Arthur. I’ve always been fascinated by the dichotomy of brutality and romance that the era presents to the historical tableau. So when I read a snippet about William Marshal (“the greatest knight who ever lived”), his conquests on the tourney fields, and his eventual pilgrimage to the Holy Land, my imagination immediately grabbed hold of it.
Jacob: How do you view your relationship with your characters? Are they real people that apparently only you can see, a collection of characteristics designed for you story's purposes, or something in between?
K.M.: Something in between, I suppose. They start out as a very wispy idea, with only a few concrete elements, and then slowly solidify as I get to know them better. The progression of the plot and the development of character is inextricable. You can’t have one without the other. So, in a sense, I design my characters specifically to fit my story’s purposes—but the story’s purposes also mold themselves to the characters.
Writing is a strange dance between characters and creator. Of course, my characters are all products of me, of my imagination, but they are also very real, very independent—even rebellious sometimes! However, I’m not one of those writers who complain about their characters not cooperating. It’s their story more than mine, so if they want to take it in a direction that I hadn’t intended, then I just let them fly! That’s what good characters do; they just take over.
Jacob: What’s the coolest bit of information you discovered in your research?
K.M.: The tourneys and the Crusades were, of course, what initially interested me. But I also found myself endlessly fascinated (and sometimes shocked) by the social mores. In many ways, the Middle Ages might just as well have been a different planet. For instance, the legal marriageable ages were ridiculously young, and even that legality was sometimes broken by ambitious noble families, who married their children off at ages as young as seven! The general corruption and ignorance of the church was also a bottomless well of interesting facts. I’d highly recommend the book The Age of Pilgrimage by Jonathan Sumption for hours of absorbing reading on the subject.
Jacob: Tell us about the novels you're cooking up for us next!
K.M.: My fantasy novel Dreamers Come (about a man who discovers that his dreams are really memories of another world) is taking a breather at the moment, waiting for me to revisit it for some more editing. In the meantime, I’m outlining another historical project, The Deepest Breath, this one set in London, Kenya, and France during World War I. And I’m also having fun with a co-writing venture that asks the question, “What if Robin Hood met Sleeping Beauty?”
Jacob: Very cool. Thanks for a great interview. Everyone, you can find out more about K.M. Weiland at her website, kmweiland.com. She also blogs at Wordplay: Helping Writers Become Authors, and AuthorCulture. Both Behold the Dawn and A Man Called Outlaw, her first book, are available on Amazon.
And now, the giveaway! Simply leave a comment in the comment section to be entered in the drawing for a signed copy of Behold the Dawn. Entries will stop being accepted at 12:00 Midnight PST on Sunday, October 25th. Lord willing, I will announce the winner here on Monday, October 26th.