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Wednesday, September 16, 2015

A Conversation with Cindy Dees!

Hello! This is the week of the interviews! 

I am very happy to have Cindy Dees with me to talk about her upcoming book, The Sleeping King and her writing process! 

Release Date: September 8, 2015 

Out Now! 

-What are your perfect writing conditions?

What a great question! For me, it would be curled up in a big chair by a fire while it rains or snows outside with a cup of hot chocolate at my elbow and laptop computer in my lap. Just thinking about that makes me want to go write!
            Of course, the reality is more often sitting on hard bleachers at my daughter’s gym with a couple of screaming two-year olds using me for a jungle gym while I dodge them and try to type…and not a drop of hot chocolate in sight.

-What made you want to write a fantasy?

            The Dragon Crest world itself and the brilliant, funny, heroic characters who play in it made me want to write about them. And the only logical way to write about them was to do so in their own medium—epic fantasy. My husband and I have played in the world Bill created for twenty years, and for about nineteen of those, I’ve been secretly plotting books set in this remarkable imaginary universe of Bill’s.
            Dragon Crest is a live-action fantasy game, which means people dress up and go out in the woods and act out the story (as opposed to sitting at someone’s kitchen table eating pizza and describing what their character is doing).
Because of its live nature, people can artificially be put into dastardly moral dilemmas and difficult, stressful situations. It’s endlessly fascinating to me to watch the unexpected things people do in these extreme circumstances. Honestly, as a writer I couldn’t ask for a better research source on human nature at its very best and most unexpected.

- What is one of your most embarrassing moments? 

So, let’s talk about how I met Bill Flippin. He played a knight in a big, live-action roleplaying game, and that day, for the first time, I was playing a live fantasy game. We’re talking my very first day.
Long, long ago in a galaxy far, far away, I was a professional belly dancer. And I’d been invited to dance at a large feast that was being thrown at the live fantasy game in question. The music started, I took off dancing, and everyone in the room started yelling at me to dance for the shy knight at the head table. Knowing no better, I obliged.
I still look back on that moment with a certain horror. What an awful way to meet one’s future writing partner!
As an aside, I also happen to know this was one of Bill’s most embarrassing moments ever, too. I’m fairly certain no man in history has ever blushed any harder. He’s going to kill me for mentioning that, by the way.

- How do you deal with writer’s block?

            In my experience, writers come up with words from a combination of two sources: creative inspiration and planned, pre-plotted ideas. When I hear writers talk about being blocked, my first question for them is which source of their writing has run dry?
            If your creative well has gone dry, doing things to refill it is required. For most writers that involves reading, traveling, listening to music, spending time with friends, learning a new hobby, doing crafts, exercising, taking a class, losing themselves down the Internet research rabbit hole…I could go on, but you get the idea.
            If it’s the plotting, the outlining, the “what comes next” that has failed a writer, then I suggest a brainstorming session with fellow writers or smart non-writing friends, or reading an excellent how-to book on writing. In this situation, it can be just as important to find the right question to ask about the story as it is to find the answer.
            Often, “I can’t write” is actually, “I don’t wanna write.” I can’t help with that. Discipline is a key ingredient for all writers. No book gets done without a whole lot of it. I actually have a plaque sitting on my desk that says, Discipline is more important than talent.
            If all else fails, I recommend cheap wine, expensive chocolate, and a few of your closest friends who are guaranteed to make you laugh until you snort bubbles out your nose.

- When did you know you wanted to be a writer?

In all seriousness, I was NEVER going to become a writer. I was a pilot in the Air Force and a part-time spy, and I fully intended to continue to operate in those fields. Writing wasn’t even on my long-range radar, let alone an actual goal.
Then I read a terrible spy novel on an airplane while flying home on leave to visit my parents. I got off the plane, handed it to my mother, and declared, “Even I could write something better than that!” To which my mom responded by betting me a dollar that I couldn’t.
Now I’m not saying I’m competitive or anything, but based solely on that bet I went home, bought a computer, learned how to use it, sat down, and wrote my first book. (It was actually my 9th published novel, titled KILLER INSTINCT.) And that was it. I was hooked on writing.

- What differs from writing thrillers and fantasy? Any challenges you didn’t expect? 

Wow. Another fantastic question. The obvious difference is the extensive world-building that goes into writing a fantasy novel. Thankfully, I have Bill as a writing partner and he’s a god at it. Ultimately though, I’m finding that good writing is pretty much the same no matter what genre a book falls into—likable characters, interesting plots, exciting action, emotion—they translate to any story.
            That said, I blow up more stuff in my thrillers.
            The one thing that really took me by surprise was just how huge an epic fantasy book is. It’s so much to keep straight that I’ve had to sacrifice an entire wall in my office to index cards thumb-tacked to it to keep all the plotlines straight and leave no loose ends hanging.

- When co-writing a book, what does that writing process look like? 

I fly to Boston and sit at Bill’s kitchen table for about three days non-stop. We brainstorm and plot intensively, and I take dozens of pages of notes. Then I comb through all the notes and create a list of possible scenes. We go through that and add the scenes we need to make the story flow.
            Then I start typing. Oh, and I ask a lot of annoying detail questions along the way that Bill is very patient about working through with me. When I’m done with the first draft, I take a deep breath and hand it over to Bill. Let the record show he’s one of the toughest editors I’ve ever worked with. But that’s exactly what the book needs to whip it into the best possible shape. Then we both take a deep breath and hand it over to our amazing editor, Claire Eddy, at Tor.
            Last, but not least, we rinse, lather and repeat on the next book in the series.

- If you could describe The Sleeping King in one word, what would it be? 

Epic is too obvious, isn’t it? How about sweeping? Or maybe extravagant.

-What is your advice for aspiring writers? 

ABC. Apply Butt to Chair. No book gets written without actually putting in the time and doing the work. You can revise, edit, tweak, and polish any piece of writing, no matter how bad it starts out. But you cannot do anything to an empty page. This gig is a marathon, not a sprint. Heck, it’s an ironman triathlon. If you want to be a writer…then write! And keep on writing.

Thanks so much to Cindy for being here with us today! Be sure to get your hands on The Sleeping King! It is sure to be epic. :) 


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