Sunday 21 August 2022

Interview with Wendy Blanton and Dawn Before The Dark, (Book 1, Balpharhn Series).

I interviewed Wendy on 01/11/19 in another blog, now defunct.

 Today, I am interviewing novelist, Wendy Blanton. She has recently released her new fantasy novel, Dawn Before The Dark. This is the first in the Balphrahn series. When I read the description on Amazon, I contacted Wendy on Facebook for an interview to discuss her novel.

Before we go any further, let's see what this novel is about: 

An ancient curse keeps men in fear of dragons, so only women can ride them in Slan--while only men can perform magic. As a necromancer from beyond the edge of the known world threatens invasion, Briant appears--a young man who loves dragons. Wybren Tanwen must decide: Is Briant the Dragonborn, the answer to prophecy? Will he save Slan?

Now let's investigate more of Wendy's imagination and the back story to her as author and this novel.

Thanks for stopping by Wendy!

Let me start by asking how got started on your writing journey?

I had a group of friends who played role-playing games, and after a particularly good session, I thought what we had gamed would make a cool story, so I started writing it. A few weeks later, the guy who ran that session saw my document on the computer and asked about it. Turned out he was also writing the story, but from a different point of view and starting in a different place. We decided to collaborate and ended up with three books. We self-published The Dragon’s Lady (the first book) in 2002.

You love coffee. So do I! What is your favourite type, brand, style? How do you brew it at home? Mine is long black with cream.

I’ve been mostly cold brewing for a couple of years. I started when our son lived with us and worked nights, so he was brewing the coffee I’d set up for the morning. Cold brewing saved my sanity and family tranquillity. I like a splash of milk, but I tell people I like my coffee like I like my villains--dark, strong, and a tiny bit bitter.

I am a fan of cold brew coffee as well! So easy to do at home and healthier for you!

What was the hardest part of writing Dawn Before Dark? Figuring out how all the pieces fit together. I combined two short stories but I had to dissect them and move things around and then fill in the rest. I’m doing the same thing with Book Two now. Hopefully, Book Three will be easier because it will be straight creating.

How did this title come about? Is it linked to specific themes or message in the novel? 

I don’t remember the exact circumstances, but I heard someone refer to the darkness before the dawn, and the words flipped in my head. Dawn Before The Dark seemed a little foreboding, and that’s what I wanted. Things seem to get dark for the characters as they face a threat but in the end they think it’s over. Since there are two more books, you can probably figure out it’s not over.

This series is different for me in that I had all the titles before the books were written. Titles are usually hard for me. Most of the time I have the story done before I figure it out. It was affirming, in a way, that this is meant to be written and shared.

How long did it take you to write this novel?

Writing took the best part of a year, I think, and then it was another year of edits and revisions once Bear Publications expressed interest. There was a lot of development I had to do to get it into shape.

What type of author are you? Novelists tend to use one of the following methods:

-Plotter: by extensively plotting it out, 

-Pantser: as it came to you (that you write by the seat of your pants)

Or was it a bit of both?

I’m mostly a pantser, but I’m becoming a planser. I can’t plan too much in advance, but I do find it works a little better if I know the major points, especially since there are three books projected right now. Honestly, my process is messy and convoluted, and I don’t recommend it in general, but it’s what I have to work with.

What biblical themes or message(s) have you incorporated in the novel or based the novel on?

Since I’m a pantser by nature, I don’t usually start with a theme. It usually comes to me as I’m writing or editing. The main theme for Dawn Before The Dark is faithfulness to one’s calling or destiny as it’s called in the book, and that will continue through the series. There are characters who are called to roles that aren’t traditional for their status, and they have to overcome prejudices--their own and those of others--to become the people they’re meant to be.

I read that you consider that,

“……dragons symbolize challenges. We all have our share, and there’s no avoiding them. You could try to slay them, but why would you? Much better to sit with them over a cup of coffee and learn what they have to teach you. Much more civilized.”

Based on this, what do the dragons symbolise in Dawn Before Dark?

The dragons represent wisdom. They’re a long-lived race, so they see a bigger picture than the humans.

Does your quote seem to reflect a philosophy that you live by? Can you expand or describe what this means to you and how is this connected to your faith and relationship in Christ?

That really has become a personal philosophy. We all have dragons, whether we choose to call them that or not. Some are bigger than others, but they tend not to go away until you deal with them, and when they do leave, another will take its place. The older I get, the more I realize I still have a lot to learn, and sometimes wisdom comes from unexpected sources. In terms of working with this in my faith walk, it helps that my day job is with a church, and I’m the oldest person on staff. I have wisdom to share by virtue of my years, but I learn from my coworkers all the time. It’s a matter of staying humble and open to new ideas.

You have written three novels, The Dragon’s Lady, Rogue Pawn, and Sword and Scabbard, under the name Elizabeth Joy with co-author Scott Carman.

Why did you use a pseudonym?

We were baby authors back then, and my husband was still in the U. S. Air Force, so it was mostly for security and to protect our privacy. However, when one promotes a book in one’s home town, a pen name can be a marketing nightmare and I ended up outing myself anyway. That’s why I don’t use one now.

You have written novels and short stories in several genres (ranging from mythology and folk tales, science fiction, dark fantasy bordering on horror). How did that happen and do you find this difficult? With the release of Dark Before Dawn, are you now writing in the one genre? 

I also have historical fiction drafts on my hard drive that may or may not see the light of day at some point. I like to write in a variety of genres, but they mostly fall under the speculative fiction umbrella. I went through a horror phase after we moved to Chicago from the St Louis area. The move was a hard transition for me and my writing got pretty dark. I’m currently writing fantasy, but I won’t say that’s all I’m going to write from now on. Has your experience in the Military (Air Force) influenced your writing? 

Not much, but I left active duty in 1994. I have a dystopian draft on my hard drive with a disabled veteran for a main character, and another one I want to develop, but modern military service isn’t as much help as you’d think when writing in a medieval-ish era. Some battle tactics might be helpful, but I was in admin and didn’t get trained in tactics.

What authors have influenced your writing or genre? 

Brandon Sanderson, Mercedes Lackey, Stephen King, and Steve Pressfield are all authors I’ve learned a lot from. I’ve also learned a lot about the craft from Stephen B. Bagley, Tambo Jones, Susan May Warren, and Rachel Hauck.

I would not call Dawn Before Dark a spiritual warfare novel. There are battles, but they’re physical. The spiritual realm doesn’t come into play in this book, although it likely will in the third book. I think I’d have to say Ted Dekker, Tosca Lee, and Frank Perretti have influenced my ability to write books that convey my beliefs subtly and without preaching.

The character names in Dawn Before the Dark are generally Gaelic based, but the dragon names are French and Spanish since there were Celts in those areas as well as parts of Germany. Why is that? 

I wanted different kinds of names for the dragons, and I wanted to acknowledge the wide area that the Celts travelled. We have archaeological evidence of Celts in Germany, northern Spain, France, and western Germany. Using those languages seemed like a good way to pay homage to that, and to give the dragons' names that would be exotic to the characters. You specialise in telling Celtic folk tales, where did this originate from?

We found out my husband’s family was a sept of Clan Campbell about the time the St. Louis Scottish Highland Games were being held. We lived about 25 miles from there, so we went to check out the clan row. The man in charge of the Campbell tent was also a bard, and before I could stop myself, I blurted out, “I’m a writer. I’ll be your apprentice!” Long story short, I learned quite a bit about storytelling from him, and I tell stories, mostly on request at Scottish events where we represent Clan Campbell.

In your facebook launch party event for the release of this novel, you state,

“The whole thing started with a Facebook post. I needed to write a short story for an anthology and I didn't have any ideas, so I posted a plea on Facebook. (It's a tactic that has yet to fail me.) My friend posted something about fire exploding across the sky--the dragons were back. I thought it was cool, but I didn't want to do dragons. Of course, I changed my mind, wrote the short story, and got a lot of positive feedback.”

What was that short story about and how did this then evolve into Dawn Before Dark? 

There were two, actually: Dragon Rescue (originally published Blackbirds Second Flight), and Mage Hunt (originally published in Blackbirds Third Flight). The parts will be largely recognizable in Dawn Before The Dark, although a lot has changed, including several of the characters’ names.

What is the reason you depicted that men cast spells and women ride dragons? This opens up the topic of gender roles. One reviewer stated this was a "gender twist". What did you set out to achieve by this depiction? 

This is why I wish I was a plotter! I didn’t start out to twist gender roles. I like strong female characters, and the main character had to be female because the friend who suggested it is female. I thought it would be cool if women rode dragons and men couldn’t, so I had to figure out why. Giving them magic seemed like a good compromise.

Let's give the reader a break from this interview so they can read an excerpt of Dawn Before Dark, but we must warn them that this excerpt is a bit long!

Why did you choose this particular excerpt? I chose this excerpt because one of the themes is embracing your destiny even if it doesn’t seem to make sense. Briant is the first male who is not afraid of dragons since the curse that caused men to dread them five centuries before. Although Briant wants to join the dragon riders, it does come with a stigma he has to overcome. Also, Tanwen has to be open to the possibility of an anomaly to the curse and do her duty not only to go and investigate but also to bring him back and help him.

Who became your favourite character and why? You was your least favourite and why?

I think Tanwen resonates most strongly with me. She’s stronger and more capable than I am, so I kind of want to be her when I grow up. She’s raising a strong, stubborn daughter, which I have already done. I don’t really like Greer. She’s a misandrist and arrogant, but I can’t tell you all the reasons I don’t like her without spoilers.

You have a curse, a prophecy, and a necromancer in this novel. Are the curse and necromancer leaning towards the demonic in origin, or have you concentrated on them as they are and omitted their origin? Similarly, is the prophecy based on any Biblical origin or is it purely your imagination?

It’s all purely imagination. The curse exists solely to give a reason why only women ride dragons, and only men can work magic. The necromancer is the antagonist, so I needed him to be powerful and scary, and the prophecy is mostly foreshadowing at this point. I didn't really think about how odd it would be to have all three in the same book until you pointed it out!

You have 2 types of dragon in your novel. How did this come about and can you describe them (for the dragon lovers who are reading this!)

The dragons you see in this book are traditional fire breathing dragons. The males are metallic colors and the females are jewel tones. I allude to water dragons in this book, although you won’t see them until the next book. They’re based on Chinese dragons and live in or near water. Their breath weapon is either steam or ice, depending on the time of year.

Have you depicted fairies, stone trolls, and glomachs (cute shaggy little weasels that can’t be detected by magic) any different to those in other novels you may have read? I have not heard off glomachs, are they your creation or do they exist in mythology? 

Glomachs are entirely my creation, as are the stone trolls and a few other creatures in Book Two. The fairies are based more on the ones in ancient folk tales. They’re often mistaken for humans, unlike the modern Tinkerbell. (We can thank the spread of Christianity for Tinkerbell, by the way. As Catholicism spread across the British Isles, it minimized anything it couldn’t incorporate, so over time, fairies became smaller and smaller. It’s a good way to guess the age of a fairy story.)

Without giving away too many spoilers, what can we expect from the next novel in this series? How many novels have you planned for this series? Any prequels or novellas planned as well? 

Currently, I have a trilogy planned. I will write prequels and novellas, but my short term plan is to share those only with the people who get my newsletter ( I want to give them exclusive content, but I won’t rule out publishing it eventually. Book Two will expand the theme of following one’s calling, even if it doesn’t make sense, and it will introduce characters from other places in Balphrahn.

Apart from the Balphrahn Series, what other works in progress do you have? 

Not at the moment. I’m trying to get the draft for Book Two done before Dec 1, so that’s really all I have time for right now.

Any closing comments? 

For anyone struggling with their writing, or any art, really, hang in there. Trust the process. Art is hard. Regular people have no idea. Your art is important so don’t give up.

Thanks so much for having me!

Wendy, it is my pleasure to feature you and your new novel here on Perspective by Peter! That was a great interview and I hope piques the interest in our readers for Dawn Before The Dark! Please return when the next novel in this series is ready for release! You are always welcome!

About Wendy Blanton: 

Wendy Blanton has been writing since she learned to string words into sentences. She is a U.S. Air Force veteran with a long and eclectic resume. In addition to writing, she tells Celtic folk tales at Scottish festivals and other venues. When she’s not mired in stories of one form or another, she enjoys reading, camping, gardening, and drinking coffee. She lives in Chicago with her husband and three geriatric cats.

Follow Wendy on Facebook, Twitter, and InstagramEmail Wendy to review her latest book; arrange a reading, signing, or interview with the author; or bring her storytelling to your event.

If this interview with Wendy has piqued your interest in Dawn Before The Dark, click on the image below to Buy, Share or Preview: 

Readers and reviews are an author’s best asset, so I encourage any reader, to consider reading Dawn Before The Dark and submit a review on Goodreads, Amazon, Barnes and Noble and on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, Pinterest (or any other social media you subscribe to).

Reviews help promote an author’s novel to potential readers and encourage the author to keep writing. Reviews also help get the author’s message (and God’s message) to the reader, whether Christian or not, who may need encouragement and support in their lives while being entertained by the story.

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