Today, I’m pleased to welcome K.M. Weiland, author of Dreamlander, the fantasy novel we’ve been reading the past few months on Mondays, and mentor to writers everywhere.
I first discovered Weiland on Twitter. It’s a testament to the fact that social media does indeed help sell books. She was one of the first people to follow me when I started out on that frightening path trying to set myself up as a professional author. Her tweets were always friendly and helpful, so when she announced Dreamlander’s release and I discovered it was fantasy, one of my favorite genres, I eagerly bought a copy. Since, I’ve continued to follow Weiland, adore her work, and learn from her wisdom. She’s a great model for a writer, and I will remain ever grateful for her instruction and the interest she has shown in my posts about her book.
So with no further ado, please welcome K.M. Weiland.
Laura Lee Nutt: To begin, for my readers who do not follow your podcast on your blog, Helping Writers Become Authors, could you please tell us how to correctly pronounce your last name?
K.M. Weiland: Hah, yes, my last name is always being pronounced wrong. But if you’re German, you know that “ei” is pronounced “I.” Hence, “WHY-lund.”
LLN: Thanks. Your work previously has consisted mostly of historical fiction. What inspired you to write fantasy instead?
KMW: I’m kind of a Mexican jumping bean when it comes to genres. But, really, historical and fantasy are very similar in a lot of respects. Most fantasies are based on historical periods—but without all those annoying facts to adhere to. I like that, in fantasy, I can write what is essentially a historical period, while still being free to let my own creativity and the needs of my story idea take me to the bounds of my imagination and back.
LLN: What role do you envision the fantasy genre playing in your authorial career in the future?
KMW: I had Dreamlander in my head before A Man Called Outlaw was ever published, so I’ve been billing myself as an “Author of Historical and Speculative Fiction” from the very beginning. I want readers to know I’ll be writing both, so they won’t be disappointed when I veer away from familiar ground. As I said, historicals and fantasies have so much in common that I don’t think many fans of my first two historicals were surprised or disappointed when Dreamlander came out.
As for the future, I definitely have more fantasies in the works. As things stand now, my next book (The Deepest Breath) will be straight historical, then I’ll be doing a few historicals set in our world but with fantasy elements, and then a modern-day story with fantasy elements. After that, it’ll be back to epic fantasy for a while.
LLN: Since we’re on the subject of fantasy, I must ask, who is your favorite fantasy writer and/or what is your favorite fantasy book?
KMW: I am absolutely crazy about Brent Weeks right now. His Night Angel trilogy blew me away. I can’t remember the last time I was so thrilled with a book. And his recent Lightbringer series is off to an amazing start as well. He does epic better than just about anyone I’ve read. I will caution, however, that his books get a hard R rating.
LLN: Let’s turn our attention specifically to Dreamlander. Throughout my read of it and your answering comments on my blog--all of which I highly appreciated, by the way--characterization frequently came up as a topic. You shared some of your experiences writing Allara and Chris, like that Allara was as difficult for you to crack as for Chris. Using Chris and Allara as a guide, what do you really enjoy in a hero and heroine? What heroic characteristics are musts for you as a reader and a writer?
KMW: I had so much fun reading your commentary. Critique partners are totally different from “ordinary” readers, so it was both a pleasure and a tremendous opportunity to be able to “read along” with you and hear your thoughts, chapter by chapter. So thank you for that!
As for protag traits, there was actually a specific exercise I ended up creating to finally crack Chris and Allara. I wrote a list of my favorite characters from books and movies, then a list of the traits that made me like them. At the top of the list were: toughness, bravery, loyalty, and generosity.
LLN: I’m on board with all of those. What was your initial inspiration for Dreamlander?
KMW: The original idea was my brother’s. He suggested I write a story about a parallel world we visit in our dreams. My imagination took it from there!
LLN: When you began writing the book, what sort of story did you intend to tell? One of saving worlds? The relationship between Chris and Allara? What it would be like to be a man caught in the place of a Gifted? Something else? What were your original goals for the story? Did they change over time?
KMW: In the beginning, I think I was sort of aiming for epic fantasy with a Matrix vibe. Of course, it turned out nothing like the Matrix, save for the “one” who’s dumped into a strange world. I knew right away there would be a tense romantic relationship between Chris and Allara. But the first scene I wrote was actually a very rough draft of Orias’s handing the dreamstone over to Mactalde’s men. Originally, there was a prophecy attached to the stone, but I ended up cutting that, since I felt it was too much of a fantasy cliché.
Really, this is the only story that I didn’t know much about when I started writing it. I just sort of discovered it along the way.
LLN: The portions of Dreamlander that take place in the real world are set in Chicago. Why did you choose that for your setting? Is there something special about Chicago for you?
KMW: Not really. I’ve actually never even been there. I knew I wanted the real-world setting to be urban. New York was the first city to pop to mind. But it seems like every city story is set in New York. So I chose Chicago as a slightly less clichéd alternative.
LLN: The other half of the story takes place in another world that has more than a bit of the early modern era, flying trains, and great armies. What were your inspirations for creating this world?
KMW: I had a lot of fun building Lael. In the beginning, it was much more medieval. No technology. Very Crusades era. But then I had the fun idea for the water-powered guns. That immediately gave me a 16th-century/Three Musketeers vibe. So I started exploring that era a little more, particularly in regards to fashion and architecture. The skycar was a very late addition, during the last big rewrite.
LLN: Wow, you weave the skycars in so well, I would never have guessed they were added so late in the process. Do you have a favorite place or two that you created for this book? What was the most fun?
KMW: I really love the skycar stations, particularly the five-story Faramore Station in the capital city. Réon Couteau, with its waterfall caverns, was pretty fun too. And I love the Karilus Wall, just for sheer geographic massiveness.
LLN: The Cherazii were an interesting touch. They really added to the fantasy, and with their mighty strength, blue blood, and unyielding honor, they immediately captured my imagination. What did you draw from when creating them and the Rievers who accompany them?
KMW: Night elves and brownies, respectively, were the original starting point. I wanted the Cherazii to remain very primal and wild, an uncivilized note in an otherwise civilized world. So I ended up drawing on a lot of Native American and Norse imagery for their society.
As for the Rievers, I wanted to explore the idea that these hideous little creatures are actually delightfully adorable and (mostly) sweet.
LLN: You developed a language for the Cherazii and Rievers. I love languages and find invented ones interesting from J.R.R. Tolkien to Robert Jordan. How did you go about creating the Cherazii tongue, and did you find it difficult?
KMW: My language was the result of years of linguistic study. Or, not. Actually, my very complicated, sophisticated language was mostly the result of my taking the last and middle letters of whatever word I was translating and making up a new word off the top of my head. I did try to maintain consistency in certain aspects, such as plural words. But, really, it’s a very unimpressive language system!
LLN: One of the things I loved about Dreamlander was how real the characters felt. The emotional depth was satisfying, and I nearly cried at a few points, a feat few books accomplish. What was it like writing them? Are you the sort of author who tears up for her characters or laughs aloud? Do you have any tricks you might share for hitting that emotional depth?
KMW: This is where I get to insert an evil chuckle. Nothing makes me happier than hearing a reader cried!
I absolutely ascribe to the statement, “No tears in the writer, no tears in the reader.” The foundational principle of writing anything emotionally resonant is that it first has to resonant with the author. We have to be honest. We have to stop and analyze our own perception of events. How would we react in certain situations? Then we have to ask ourselves how our characters are different from us. How would their reactions differ from ours?
After that, it’s just a matter of figuring out how to write that emotional reaction in the clearest and most truthful way. And that is one of the most difficult parts of writing any story.
LLN: As I indicated before, your generosity in reaching out to other writers is part of what first drew me to you. From your blog to your helpful tweets, you are very motivated to help others writers. What do you enjoy most in doing this, and what inspires you to keep at it?
KMW: Makes my day to hear the blog and the tweets have been useful to you! On a purely personal level, I love exploring storycraft, and I love sharing what I learn with others. I also just like being able to help other writers. Writing can be such a lonely journey. We often sense that our writing isn’t quite where it needs to be. But we don’t know what’s wrong with it, much less how to fix it. That’s why the online writing community is so wonderful. Writers from all over the world get to come together and help each other over the bumps in the road.
LLN: Speaking of helping other writers, you have a new book coming out, Structuring Your Novel: Essential Keys for Writing an Outstanding Story. Tell us a bit about this book and how it can help writers.
KMW: I am so excited about this book. When I first learned about story structure it absolutely blew me off my feet. Writers are always dragging themselves through painful revisions, because, deep down, we sense something is wrong with the story. But we’re just running off gut instinct. An understanding of structure helps us see our stories, where they’re working, and where they’re not. Structure has revolutionized my approach to writing. If I can’t share with others anything else about writing, then I’ll be happy just to share structure.
LLN: Before we close, I’d like to shift focus once more and take a broader look at your career. Thinking back to those early days before you ever had anything published, when you were still struggling to make the dream even a flicker of reality, what do you wish you had known then that you know now?
KMW: That’s a hard one to answer. I’ve made mistakes along the way. But I always did the best I could with the knowledge I had at the time. And those mistakes led me to new understandings. It’s all a part of the journey. I wish I’d learned about structure earlier. I wish I’d started blogging on Wordpress in the beginning, instead of Blogger. I wish the independent publishing revolution had hit about five years earlier. But, really, at the end of the day, I have no regrets.
LLN: Your faith is an important component to your life and writing process. I admire your devotion and dedication and how you pray before writing. That’s something I always intend to do but too often forget. Beyond the habit of prayer, how does your faith influence you as a writer?
KMW: I get asked this a lot, and it’s a hard one to answer, because, honestly, the better question is How doesn’t it influence me as a writer? My faith is the paradigm I live by, so it influences every aspect of my life, my thoughts, my opinions, and my view of the world. Whatever I write can only be a product of that.
I’m always aware of how I present faith in my books, and sometimes that means that I actually don’t address faith explicitly at all. Although my relationship with God is a fundamental part of who I am, a discussion of it isn’t going to be right for every story. Nor am I ever trying to preach my own beliefs at my readers. Novels aren’t meant to provide answers, only ask questions. And, ultimately, I’m often just using my fiction to allow myself to work out my own questions about God and life.
LLN: At the end of your life, what impact would you like to have had as a writer? How would you like to be remembered?
KMW: Oh, gosh, that’s tough! I’m not particularly worried about leaving a legacy, as such. If my work is forgotten after I’m gone, so be it. But if it gets to hang around in some form, then I’d like people to respond to it then the same away I’d like them to respond to it now: I’d like them to have fun, be inspired, and be challenged.
LLN: Finally, here are a few quick, fun questions.
Favorite dessert: Crème brûlée.
Other than writing, favorite pastime: Gotta be boring and say reading.
Most despised vegetable: I like most veggies. It’s fruit that sometimes grosses me out. Case in point: bananas.
Favorite historical period you would most like to visit: I have an undying love for the Middle Ages, particularly the 12th and 13th centuries. But I don’t know that I’d actually want to visit it. I do like indoor plumbing, you know.
Historical period you would least like to visit: Hmm, the Spanish Inquisition maybe?
If you could live in only one, Lael or Earth: Is this before or after the war in Lael? I’d like to visit Lael, but, honestly, I think I’d get lonely for western Nebraska.
LLN: Thank you so much for joining us today. It’s been a pleasure interviewing you, and I wish you much luck with your new book.
Be sure to check out Structuring Your Novel: Essential Keys for Writing and Outlining Story. It’s only $2.99 on Kindle right now.
For other places to find K.M. Weiland, check out her website or follower her on Twitter for those helpful, friendly tweets.
About K.M. Weiland:
K.M. Weiland is the author of the epic fantasy Dreamlander, the historical western A Man Called Outlaw and the medieval epic Behold the Dawn. She enjoys mentoring other authors through her website Helping Writers Become Authors, her books Outlining Your Novel and Structuring Your Novel, and her instructional CD Conquering Writer’s Block and Summoning Inspiration. She makes her home in western Nebraska.