Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Deanna's Tidbits: Interview with author Kim Headlee

Reblogged from 5/20/2013
Hi! Thank you for stopping in to meet Kim! 

Deanna: Kim, thank you for hanging out with us this week! Tell us something about yourself that our readers might not know.

Kim: When I was 7, my parents took me to see the movie Camelot (starring Richard Harris, Vanessa Redgrave & Franco Nero, Warner Brothers, 1967). This inaugurated my lifelong interest in the Arthurian Legends. My interest received another boost at age 9, when I read a modern-English translation of Sir Thomas Malory’s Le Morte d’Arthur cover to cover. These two facts I have mentioned in other public forums.

What I have never revealed is that when my preteen friends were identifying with athletes and pop-culture celebrities, I identified so strongly with Lancelot that I wanted to be him! My favorite pull-on top was of a shade and style that looked like something Franco Nero wore in the movie, and I had a silver doubloon attached to a silvertone necklace chain that reminded me of something a knight in the Middle Ages would wear.

Deanna: Really! Were you a tomboy?

Kim: I was a competitive swimmer—ultimately, I was recruited to compete at the Air Force Academy—so I was always very athletic. The aspect of Lancelot that appealed to me was that he was the best in the world at what he did and knew it, and he talked about it in such a matter-of-fact way that his peers despised him for it. And yet because it was the unvarnished truth, the other knights could do nothing to prove him wrong. As a kid I wanted to be that good at whatever I did. I hope my writing lives up to that ideal. My fans seem to think so, and that heartens me.

Deanna: Thank you for sharing that with us. What do you do to relax when you aren’t writing?

Kim: Writing is my relaxation! It focuses and invigorates me. Everything else I must do to keep the wheels of my life spinning along…doesn’t.

Deanna: Ah, but surely it isn’t all-work-and-no-play for you all the time. For your evenings out, do you favor dinner or a movie? What would the dinner be? What might the movie be? Do you prefer wine, whiskey, soft drinks, or iced tea? Inquiring minds!

Kim: My Spring 2013 has been so insanely busy, for happy reasons as well as sad, that at this point I will take any evening activity that isn’t related to high school athletics, college events, or mournful family gatherings.

And if I’m not driving, I will take any cocktail that contains a shot of Peach Schnapps, thank you very much! Though my husband’s invented frozen “Blueberry Surprise,” made with our home-grown blueberries, Blue Curacao, and other surprises, comes in a close second.

Dinner and a movie sounds good, though! My town has the best Japanese restaurant in a hundred mile radius, and the movie will be Star Trek: Into Darkness. For my evening out I don’t want to wait till almost Christmas before the next installment of The Hobbit is released!

Deanna: The Blueberry Surprise sounds delicious! You ARE very busy. Do you have to schedule your writing time around a day job too?

Kim: “Have to”—not anymore, thankfully. I worked as a full-time computer consultant for 25 years. While writing & publishing my first two novels (Dawnflight, 1st Edition, Sonnet Books, 1999, and Liberty, writing as Kimberly Iverson, HQN Books, 2006) I held jobs that not only took me outside the home but entailed horrific commutes. After being in a near-fatal automobile crash in 2003 that left me with pins holding together a neck fracture, the 9-to-5-plus-commute grind became increasingly difficult to sustain. So when we left the “rat race” and moved to rural Southwestern Virginia in 2005 (because the “rats” won, in case you were wondering), I did a little bit of telecommuting and still do on rare occasions. But I didn’t pursue any more full-time computer positions. I also substitute-teach now & then at the high school where my husband teaches. It turns out that I’m one of those rare substitutes who actually can teach, so my services have been in demand lately.

Deanna: As women, we must juggle many roles, and as authors the situation seems even more acute. I’ve been accused of being several people because of the characters in my writing—how about you? How many personalities live in your mind?

Kim: All of them! Every character that finds his or her way out of my head and onto the page is a part of me in some way: villains and heroes, minor characters and major ones, the good, the bad, the beautiful, the hideous. Some characters of course inhabit more real estate inside my head than others, and for longer periods of time. Sometimes, decades longer.

Gyan, the heroine of The Dragon’s Dove Chronicles and one of the characters who has stayed with me the longest, recently granted an interview with the Love For Indie Authors blog.

Deanna: Sounds crowded up there! Do your characters get together and throw their own parties?

One of the most surprising things that ever happened to me occurred in my “pre-published” days, when I picked up a draft of Dawnflight and reread it for the first time in several years. Because I knew chronological distance tends to strip away the bias created by working on a project every day, I fully expected the manuscript to strike me as being utter crap. Not only was it not crap, but I felt as if I was experiencing a family reunion with my characters! Their “faithfulness” heartened me and gave me the impetus to see their story through to its initial publication, five years later.

Deanna: How many characters do you have? You must have a lot of plots going on to keep them all busy. How many plots do you include in one of your books? And why do you use so many viewpoint characters?

Kim: Wow. In all this time I have never sat down to count plots, and I always used to lose count when trying to list the viewpoint characters! I write epic literature, which by its very nature entails many plots and characters with which to effectively carry them. And I use the word “epic” in the traditional sense of story scope, not the way in which the word has been trivialized in today’s conversational usage. Since my story arcs are so broad, not every plot gets resolved in a single volume, and not all plots have been introduced in the first installment.

With the 2013 reboot of my Dragon’s Dove Chronicles series of Arthurian novels, and having decided to go the indie-publishing route to retain control of all aspects of my work, I finally hit upon a method that allows me to count viewpoint characters: the line-art totem. Each character has his or her own totem, and the major characters have two. My artwork is inspired by carvings on standing stones found throughout Scotland, and each novel in The Dragon’s Dove Chronicles features an acknowledgments section in the backmatter where I identify the specific stones and their locations, and which character the image represents. I hope these totems help the readers navigate the viewpoint shifts. It appears so, since the feedback I’ve received has been very positive.

So to answer your second question, Dawnflight features 14 viewpoint characters, and its sequel, the forthcoming Morning’s Journey, has 18! My alter-ego for historical romance, Kimberly Iverson, uses far fewer viewpoint characters, which is more in keeping with the genre. In the 2006 novel Liberty, which features the love story of a female gladiator-slave and the son of the Roman governor of Britain, only 5 characters’ viewpoints were necessary for effectively telling that story.

Deanna: My readers love to know how writers spend their day. Tell us about a typical day in your life as a writer.

Kim: LOL, I don’t think “typical” applies to any day of mine! (Did I mention how crazy my Spring has been? Yes, I believe I have.

And in fact I prefer not to have a set routine unless I am pressing to finish the first draft of a novel in progress. If that’s the case, I go to “the Retreat,” a small house we built on our property when we first bought the land which has all the comforts of home except—deliberately—a landline and Internet access. This is where I store my research library, signed books, memorabilia acquired from conventions and research trips throughout the years, artwork, and other items that inspire me as I write. It also functions as a guesthouse, which we make available to family and close friends. Once school resumes in the fall, I plan to spend as many days as it takes there to finish the first draft of Morning’s Journey’s sequel, Raging Sea. I got about 80 pages into it last fall before a family crisis put my writing of new material on temporary hiatus.

Deanna: I’m sorry to hear that and hope you can get back to it soon! What one thing would you pass on to new writers?

Kim: One thing, eh? Just one? Okay. Here it is:


Because if you don’t stick with your writing, creating it and revising it and polishing it so hard and so shiny that you can see yourself in it, nobody else is going to do it for you.

Deanna: That’s an excellent point. Do your books have a common theme or are they all different?

Kim: My novels feature many different themes but with one unifying concept: the primary romantic relationships feature couples who are not of the same race or culture. In Dawnflight and Morning’s Journey, Gyan (a.k.a. Guinevere) is a Pictish warrior-chieftainess, and Arthur is a Romanized Celt. In Liberty, my female gladiator, Rhyddes, is a British Celt, and Marcus is a Roman nobleman descended from one of Rome’s founding families. The next-to-be-published work under the Kimberly Iverson brand, Snow In July, which is set in the months immediately following the Battle of Hastings, features the Saxon heroine Kendra, who is forced by royal decree to marry the Norman knight Alain.

I even have a body of work—including a trilogy of screenplays—that centers upon two time-traveling lovers: the heroine was born in 5th century Britain, and the hero, by our chronology, won’t be born (in America) until 2037! But I’ll leave the reveal of their names and story for another day.

Deanna: I look forward to that. Let’s switch gears a bit, now. What physical characteristics do you admire in a man?

Kim: ROFL! That is a gear shift. Well, shall I admit that I don’t watch pro football games only to see a fat little brown, pointy-ended thing get schlepped up and down the field? That I prefer football uniforms to any other sport’s attire because of the, shall I say, tailoring, especially in the seat region? And that Joe Montana is my favorite pro player of all time, and not simply because of his impressive on-field statistics?

Oops, I guess I just did!

I’ll let our gentle readers draw what conclusions they may from those hints… ;-)

Deanna: Okay! Back to business, then. Please tell us about your latest book and characters, and the type of reader it may appeal to.

Kim: For decades I have called myself the “Cross-Genre Queen.” In the early 90s, when I was trying to market Dawnflight myself, it never even occurred to me to send it to romance publishers. Although the romance of Gyan and Arthur drives the central plot, their story is so much more than that, filled with history and legend, battles and conquests, struggles of the soul, and the magic of herbal lore and prophecies and visions. After Dawnflight was picked up for publication by Sonnet Books, a romance imprint of Simon & Schuster, its spine classification was simply “Fiction.” Most of what I write is heavily cross-genre because that’s what appeals to me most as a reader. I feel it’s much more representative of life and therefore much more meaningful to the audience.

Therefore, my work—especially Dawnflight and the other volumes of The Dragon’s Dove Chronicles—appeals to a wide variety of readers for a wide variety of reasons.

As far as graphic content goes, sex as well as violence, I have had parents of children as young as 10 tell me their children love my fiction, which doesn’t surprise me. It’s at its heart an exciting story, after all. And the sexual content is higher for this edition of Dawnflight and its sequels. My advice is that the parent of any child under the age of 16 should read it first and decide whether it is appropriate reading material for their son or daughter.

Women may like the love story that develops between Arthur and Gyan, two very strong, talented, compassionate, intelligent leaders who share a vision to unite their formerly warring peoples and bring peace and prosperity to their world. Arthur and Gyan are soulmates, and it shows…and not just in the bedchamber.

Men may like the swordplay, which I learned firsthand from a Tai Chi master and have incorporated into my combat scenes as a way to distinguish Gyan’s fighting style from the brute-force, hack-and-slash method most of her male opponents employ. And, hey, she wears leather, and fills it very well! But I drew the line at giving her the ridiculous if uber-sexy, fantasy-babe look. My heroine is far smarter than to get caught dead wearing something as impractical as that!

Anyone who enjoys depictions of political intrigue and wars will find plenty of both in The Dragon’s Dove Chronicles. By tradition, Arthur fought 12 major battles and won them all in the course of establishing a generation of peace for Britain. All of these battles have been, are, or will be described in the various volumes of The Dragon’s Dove Chronicles. Another aspect that sets my work apart from other Arthurian renditions is that I delve into the various reasons why Arthur’s enemies attack—everything from desperate brink-of-starvation need to unabashed avarice. And not all of Arthur’s allies choose to fight against these external enemies all the time; hence the intrigue.

Lovers of the beauty and intricacies of the written word may enjoy the effort I have put into inventing entire sets of idiomatic language that the characters of my various races employ to refer to themselves and each other. These terms, based on my studies of Scottish Gaelic, Irish Gaelic, Old Welsh, and Old English, show up in names, endearments, epithets, insults, and mythology for the enrichment of the world I have created. All of my editions now feature appendices to aid readers who wish to learn more about these terms and their origins. Those who wrestle with the pronunciations may be glad to learn that audiobook editions are in the works!

And no story about Arthur’s era would be complete without depictions of the various characters’ religious beliefs and practices, and how these beliefs affect their decisions. Some of this resonates with readers, and some doesn’t.

It is all, as the saying goes, in the eye of the beholder.

Thank you very much, Deanna, for this opportunity to share with your readers!

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