~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~What is your name and where do you live now?
My name is Kim Rendfeld. I live in New Castle, Indiana, a small town in the American Midwest.
First off, how has your week been?
My week has been nice but busy, as usual. I have a day job in the public relations office at a university, and in the evenings, I’m working on my second book while promoting my first. I enjoy all of it, but it makes free time scarce.
Please tell us about your current release.
The Cross and the Dragon is a tale of love amid the wars and blood feuds of Charlemagne’s reign. Here is the blurb:
Francia, 778: Alda has never forgotten Ganelon’s vow of vengeance when she married his rival, Hruodland. Yet the jilted suitor’s malice is nothing compared to Alda’s premonition of disaster for her beloved, battle-scarred husband.
Although the army invading Hispania is the largest ever and King Charles has never lost a war, Alda cannot shake her anxiety. Determined to keep Hruodland from harm, even if it exposes her to danger, Alda gives him a charmed dragon amulet.
Is its magic enough to keep Alda’s worst fears from coming true—and protect her from Ganelon?
Is anything in your book based on real life experiences or purely all imagination?
It’s a blend. My story is fictional. However, historical events and legends form its underpinning, and I did my best to stay true to the historical characters, what is known of them. Any portrayal of Roland (Hruodland in The Cross and the Dragon) is going to be fictitious. Although the character has inspired many legends, the only historical mention of him is part of a sentence in Einhard’s biography of Charlemagne.
My characters have different customs and ways of explaining the world, but regardless of era, everyone has loved and grieved, felt joy and anger. To convey my characters’ emotions, I’ve drawn on some of my own experiences of love and heartbreak.
Did you learn anything from writing your book? What was it?
There is nothing like researching and writing about the past to make you grateful for all that we have today. Despite all the troubles and uncertainties we face these days, I like my morning coffee, my rights as a woman, my Internet and cell phone, science-based medical care, powerful contact lenses, and a society that believes in a safety net.
Is there a part of the story you really liked but had to remove, and if so, could you tell us why?
At its peak, The Cross and the Dragon was an obese 146,000-plus words. Even though only a few agents and editors cited the word length (when I got a useful response), they were reluctant to take it on. Cutting down the manuscript to a pleasantly plump 105,000 words did feel like all the violent sayings that going along with this process: “murder your babies,” “kill your darlings,” “shoot your pets.”
After an editor’s useful rejection, I chopped off the first two chapters introducing the scenery and characters because they slowed the story down too much and didn’t provide enough tension. I eliminated some secondary characters, including Hruodland’s second brother, who like me was extremely near-sighted. He was not necessary to the story.
I cut several scenes including one where the characters go falconing. I good responses to it from my critique partners, but I needed to slim down the manuscript. Although entertaining, the scene ended up on the virtual cutting room floor because it was not essential to the plot, the conflict, or character development.
As emotionally difficult as the process is, it made the story better and was worth it.
What does your protagonist think about you? Would they want to hang out with you, their author and creator?
Alda and I are from two different worlds, and I am not sure how she would feel about me. I admire her courage and fierce loyalty, yet we would probably argue about issues of the day. So many concepts of my society are foreign to her such as freedom of speech, including the right to offend and openly question authority. Yet I can’t help but think she would welcome women being allowed to choose for themselves whom they marry and how they spend their lives.
Do you have plans for a new book?
I am in the process of polishing my next book, with the working title The Ashes of Heaven’s Pillar. Here is the most recent draft of the blurb:
Charlemagne’s 772 battles in Saxony have left Leova with nothing but her two children, Deorlaf and Sunwynn. Her husband died in combat. Her faith lies in the ashes of the Irminsul, the Pillar of Heaven. And the relatives obligated to defend her and her family sold them into slavery, stealing their farm.
Taken in Francia, Leova will stop at nothing to protect her son and daughter, even if it means sacrificing her honor and her safety. Her determination only grows stronger as Sunwynn blossoms into a beautiful young woman attracting the lust of a cruel master and Deorlaf becomes a headstrong man willing to brave starvation and demons to free his family.
Yet Leova’s most difficult dilemma comes in the form of a Frankish friend, Hugh. He saves Deorlaf from a fanatical Saxon Christian and is Sunwynn’s champion—and he is the warrior who slew Leova’s husband.
Do you have to do much research?
Oh yes, as do all serious historical novelists. I can’t give an exact breakdown of how much time I spend on research and how much I spend writing, but I am often looking information up. Historical novelists have to do so much more than know what happened and speculate why it did. They must re-create the events, show the culture and daily life, and reveal the characters’ innermost thoughts.
Primary sources are wonderful for research because they provide the freshest account of events, but their authors take for granted that their audience would know the fashions of the time or not care what people looked like. And they sometimes did not let facts in the way of their story.
What piece of advice would you give to a new writer?
Focus on making your story the very best it can be before you worry about anything else such as how to attract an agent or publisher or how to promote the work. Both of these are important, but they are useless if you’ve not crafted a work that people want to read.
Thank you, Samantha, for this chance to talk about my writing.
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~A former journalist and current copy editor for a university public relations office, Kim Rendfeld has a lifelong fascination with fairy tales and legends, which set her on her quest to write The Cross and the Dragon and other tales set eighth century Francia. She lives in the American Midwest with her husband, Randy, and their spoiled cats. They have a daughter and two granddaughters, with a third due in May 2013.
For more about Kim, visit www.kimrendfeld.com, read her blog at www.kimrendfeld.wordpress.com, like her on Facebook at www.facebook.com/authorkimrendfeld, or follow her on Twitter at @kimrendfeld.
You can purchase The Cross and the Dragon on Amazon.