Please join me in welcoming Kim Rendfeld this morning. I hope you enjoy getting ot know her as much as I have.
When did you first start writing?
I probably started storytelling by playing with my dolls. In middle school, I switched to drawing. Yet I’ve always enjoyed reading and fell in love with the Lord of the Rings series as an adolescent. I got the writing bug when I was in high school. I sketched stories for four fantasy novels and even typed up a fantasy on a typewriter I named Cecil.
What did you do with your earliest efforts? Did anyone read them? Did you still have them?
I remember telling my best friend about two of my stories and showed her some of my sketches and maybe some of what I typed, but my earliest efforts wound up in a desk drawer. Then I went off to college and thought of them only sometimes, intending to get back to them someday. I was distracted by college studies, then a career in journalism.
I don’t know what happened to those stories. They might be in a box in my barn or my mother’s basement.
What made you choose to write in the genres/time periods you write in?
I’ve never outgrown my fascination with fairy tales and Arthurian tales, which might be why I was drawn to a legend about Rolandsbogen, an ivy covered arch on Rhineland hill. My family and I encountered it in a guidebook while vacationing in Germany. To be specific about the story would be a spoiler, but it involves Roland (Hruodland) and his bride being separated by a falsehood. The story about Rolandsbogen turned out not to be true, but it would not leave me alone as I flew back to the States. I had to find out: Who was Roland? Who was his bride? And why would someone lie to her?
I knew very little about the Middle Ages, and Charlemagne in particular, when I started writing but discovered just how fascinating this period is. For aristocrats, the political and the personal were intertwined. The cause for the 773-74 war between Francia and Lombardy was a mix of sibling rivalry, a failed marriage, and an oath to protect Rome.
What do you enjoy most in the writing process? What parts of it do you really dislike?
I love it when I get in the zone, when the story is flowing so fast that my fingers can barely keep up, when I focus on my characters’ situations so intently I see what they see and feel what they feel. For me, it often happens during revisions, when my plot is mostly settled.
Before I was published, I would have named writing a synopsis as something to dislike. All those clever flourishes gone so that the plot can fit into five pages. I do understand why agents and editors use them; they need a quick way to see if the sample they read lives up to its promise–that the end is not a letdown.
Now that I am published, I’ve had to force myself to think like a business, and well, if I wanted to do that, I would have majored in accounting instead of English and journalism. But my fear of the IRS outweighs the tedium of record-keeping. And it helps me decide what is worth the investment.
If you write in multiple genres how do you make the switch from one to the other? Do you find it a welcome change, crazy-making or a little of both?
I might write something besides historical fiction someday, if my muse tells me to. For now, the closest I get to a different genre is my work in a public relations office at Ball State University in Muncie, Indiana. The day job and the variety of the projects I edit help me stayed grounded in this century, and I enjoy being paid to read other people’s work and tell them what’s wrong with it. It is a different kind of storytelling as was my almost two decade career in journalism.
Historical fiction takes a lot of research. What is the most memorable or interesting thing you’ve learned along the way?
Early in my research, I read in Daily Life in the World of Charlemagne that the Carolingians bathed! Aristocrats took baths once a week. It’s not as often as shower-addicted, 21st century Americans, but medieval folk were not as dirty as I had been led to believe. Another surprise: abstaining from the bath was a form of penance, similar to temporarily giving up meat or wine.
Another treasure comes in the letters found in Charlemagne: Translated Sources. They reveal the human beings behind the history. For example, Pope Stephen III writes an impassioned letter to King Charles and his brother urging that neither of them marry the daughter of his enemy, the Lombard king. If today’s high school students saw more sources like that rather than the dry listing of facts in textbooks, young adults would be a lot more interested in history.
How do you get your ideas? Where do you look for ideas?
The legend about Rolandsbogen compelled me to write The Cross and the Dragon. When I thought I was finished with the manuscript, I started trying to get the attention of an agent or editor. Yet I also missed my characters. I was grieving for my imaginary friends and needed another book to work on.
At first, I was going to continue the story of two nuns who helped my hero, and I wanted to include Continental Saxon commoners and give their view of the bitter wars between the Franks and the Saxons, wars that the Saxons ultimately lost. My problem was that unless I had something really bad happen to these nuns, such as one of them getting terminally ill or falling in love, I didn’t have a story. I couldn’t do it to these nuns. They are nice women. The Saxons, a mother and her two children, kept whispering to me, telling me that I had to write their story. So I let them hijack my plot.
A third manuscript, a novel about Fastrada, King Charles’s most influential and hated wife, was born through the same grieving process. I was going through my outtakes from the first book, looking for another book to help me get over finishing the second one, and I was reminded of the true story of Charles’s eldest son, Pepin, who tried to overthrow his father. When caught, he and his co-conspirators blamed Fastrada’s cruelty. But was she truly cruel as medieval people would define it? Or was she maligned because she was a strong woman with a lot of influence?
Tell us a little about your current project.
I’m focusing on promoting The Cross and the Dragon in the near future, writing blog posts, contacting reviewers, and doing whatever else I need to let readers know about this book. I must admit I find promotion a bit daunting, especially for an introvert. Yet it has been rewarding. I’ve connected with so many nice people as a result.
What’s up next for you?
I will soon be polishing my next novel, tentatively title The Ashes of Heaven’s Pillar. Ashes features that Saxon family I was talking about earlier. My heroine, Leova, a Saxon peasant, is determined to protect her two children. They are all she has left after she has lost everything—husband, home, religion, even her freedom. The story follows them as they rebuild their lives and seek justice against the kin who betrayed them.
Thank you, Maria Grace, for this opportunity to talk about my writing.
For more about Kim and her fiction, visit www.kimrendfeld.com, read her blog at www.kimrendfeld.wordpress.com, like her on Facebook at www.facebook.com/authorkimrendfeld, connect with her on Goodreads at www.goodreads.com/Kim_Rendfeld, check out her Amazon page at www.amazon.com/author/kimrendfeld, or follow her on Twitter at @kimrendfeld.
Kim Rendfeld’s debut novel, The Cross and the Dragon, a tale of love amid the wars and blood feuds of Charlemagne’s reign, was recently published in e-book and print by Fireship Press.
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?
Inspired by legend and painstakingly researched, The Cross and the Dragon is a story of tenderness, sacrifice, lies, and revenge.