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Keeper of Dragons - K. J. Fogleman

Those of you who follow this blog, or have picked up a copy of Heroes Book 4 Princess of Lanfor, know that this is the first book in the series with a co-author. That author is my good friend Kathryn Fogleman.

Kathryn has been writing since the age of 10. She is imaginative, witty, and brings some quirky characters to life in Princess. The effervescent but deadly Kalyn Rhan and the eccentric, unpredictable blind druid, Fran, are both Kathryn's creations.

Since you all might be new to her writing, I thought it would be nice to interview Kathryn today and find out a little more about her. So without further ado, here is the Keeper of Dragons herself, K. J. Fogleman:

Hi Kathryn, thanks for stopping by. So let's start with the basics. What motivated you to become an author?

I met two authors at a local craft show (Elaine Littau and Sheryln Polf) who told me about their individual publishing experiences. They explained how simple it was to self-publish and sang about the joys of being a published author. Between their testimonies and seeing their books in person, with their names on them, it really motivated me to write out my childhood daydreams and publish them.

Childhood daydreams? Is that how you develop your plots and characters?

Yup. Most of my main plots come from stories my sister, Kristyn, and I created when we were children. When we played, we made up incredible stories on the fly.

Now, I write down the main plot idea then fill in the missing pieces. How do I want the story to begin? How do I want it to end? What special scenes do I want in-between? And how do those dots all connect? Also, what special things can I put into the story to torture the hearts of fangirls everywhere?

Fangirls sell books, peeps. Just saying.

Fangirls, huh? Like Kalyn?

Definitely like Kalyn. Fangirling the Heroes was a planned side of her, but she is much more complex than that, and a hero in her own right.

In general, I develop characters through dialogue. I cannot stress how important dialogue is. I have a few characters who don’t like to talk, and that’s okay. I will spend an hour crafting a one-liner for them, because I want it to speak of their personality and tell the reader who they are, while staying true to their character and keeping the story rolling.

That's an interesting POV. Seth and Donnie fit that mold well. So when you develop characters, do you already know who they are before you begin writing, or do you let them develop as you go?

I know who they are before, and I let them evolve as I write. I really don’t think you can have a solid character in a story without thinking them through and getting to know them in your mind. I like to know how my characters fit into the story and how they will affect it – past, present, and future – then I introduce them into the story and see what they do from there. Sometimes, they take a different path from what I intended, and they don’t always have the ending I had originally planned for them (Torry wasn’t meant to die, originally, I swear! And Erewhon wasn’t supposed to get possessed… spoilers…), but they never deviate from their personality or their goal. They remain sound characters because of the time I spent creating them and finding their special place in the story.

Poor Torry. That was quite sad. For those of you who don't know, Kathryn is currently rewriting the first book in her series, Tales of the Wovlen, the Dragon's Son. That new edition contains the scene she is referring to. Speaking of male characters, what’s the most difficult thing about writing characters from the opposite sex?

Did you know that boys do not multitask? Some THINK they multitask, but when you research it, you find out that men LEGIT cannot multitask. Their brains are not wired for it.

This is so foreign to a girl. Girl brains are made for multitasking. They are like a messed up Rubik’s cube spinning in the air with all the colors on all the sides, and all the sides showing at the same time. Boy brains are NOT. They are one track, sole focused, blue-and-white. When they switch from one train of thought to the other, it’s like turning from the blue side of the Rubik’s cube to the white side. There is no multi-colored side, and there are no two sides showing at the same time.

As a girl writing from a boy’s point of view, this makes it very hard because I have to realize that Keegan is not thinking about fifteen million things, like me or Erewhon. He is maybe thinking about three things tops, and they all somehow connect to the blue side of the Rubik’s cube. If Erewhon comes along, he flips from the blue side of the cube and switches to the red side, which is a total different train of thought. Erewhon, on the other hand, has a completely messed up Rubik’s cube on a tilt-a-world in her head, and Keegan’s red sided Rubik’s cube is trying to solve Erewhon’s mixed up Rubik’s cube, and the rest from there is classic man vs. woman problems.

And now my head is spinning! What kind of research do you do, and how long do you spend researching before beginning a book?

I research as it is needed and don’t make any plans for it. So, when my characters suddenly arrive at a mountain they need to climb, I run to Google to research what supplies they need to climb it and, seven hours later, I walk away with a DVM in zoological medicine… and I can’t remember how I downloaded so many pictures of cute lion cubs…

As a fantasy author who has built her own world, I mostly delve into geographical research. What is it like to climb a mountain? What does an inactive volcano look like? What kind of rocks come from a volcano? What kind of plants grow around a volcano? Stuff like that. (Volcanos are cool, by the way)

Also, because I am a sadistic author who likes to torture her characters, I do a fair amount of research into mental and physical trauma: if a kid sees his parents die, how will that scar him? How is staph infection spread? Where can you stab a person without killing them, and how many times can you stab them before they die? What are the symptoms of internal bleeding? How do you resuscitate someone who has drowned? Where do you stab someone to keep them from screaming? My google search history is grizzly.

Recently, I have spent a lot of time researching weird foods. (shudders) Please, I will take amputation details over Balut or Milt any day. (Don’t look them up. You will be scarred for life.)

You know of course I am going to have to look them up now. So how did you come up with the idea for Tales?

When my sister and I were little, we spent a great deal of time playing outside on our little farm. We created an entire world and role played its history. In that world, we had an elf-like woman as a friend who went with us on all our travels. Her name was Demitreah.

Over time, she changed. After losing her lover, she went mad, turned evil, and became a scourge on the land. We created a prophecy that said one day, a man would team up with a dragon and end her reign of terror.

Years later, when we were a little older, I saw the movie Dragonheart for the first time. It reminded me of our prophecy and spurred my imagination to create a story based on that set of circumstances. And thus Tales of the Wovlen was born.

Of course we all need a hero to face the villain. Tell us about your protagonists. Was there a real-life inspiration behind Keegan and Erewhon?

There was no real-life inspiration for Keegan or Erewhon. I created them solely to rebel against what I saw as the status quo in stories and movies.

Keegan was created because I wanted a flawed, imperfect hero. I grew up with Roy Rogers, the Lone Ranger, John Wayne, James Bond, and Arnold Schwarzenegger. They were smart, good looking, did everything right, and were bullet-proof to boot. It annoyed me! I wanted a hero who got hurt, who messed up, and who rarely got it right (admittedly, I may have gone overboard with Keegan).

As for Erewhon, I got sick and tired of seeing girls in stories AND in real-life who fell for the first boy who saved her from a dragon. I wanted a strong girl who would put her responsibilities first, instead of letting her fickle emotions run away with her. I wanted a princess who didn’t marry Prince Charming after he saved her from the wicked step-mother. I wanted to see a selfless princess who broke her own heart by refusing the handsome stranger and setting the needs of her family and kingdom before her own desires. I wanted a princess who would trust that everything would work out okay as long as she kept her eye on the goal. Few people like to read about that sort of princess, but I think more girls need to be that kind of princess.

I think more people share your point of view these days than you realize. So lets get back to Demitreah. A good villain is hard to write. How did you get in touch with your inner villain to write Tales?

When I was little and the world was magic, I wanted to grow up to be a Disney princess. When I grew up and saw life for the beast it can be, I came to see the villain’s point of view. Getting in touch with my inner villain was not hard. I just thought back on all the terrible, unfair things that have happened in my life and put in the “what if”.

What if I had allowed all the hardships in my life to get to me? What kind of person would I have become? I would become my villain: Demitreah.

I trusted people once, and they hurt me. Why should I trust them again? Why can’t I just use them, like they used me? It wouldn’t be hard! It would make me feel better, and they would only feel the pain for a second… and if they didn’t, who really cares anyway? Nobody cares about anybody but themselves. I can use that to further my agenda.

It’s not hard to become the villain. It’s hard to be the hero.

Unfortunately that is too true. Taking the high road is never easy. Speaking of not easy, what was your hardest scene to write?

Any scene that has the barest hint of romance was one of the hardest. I am not a romantic person. I think romance is as fickle as it gets and is horribly unrealistic (no offence to my romance author friends…). Because I am such an unromantic person, I am really dumb when it comes to writing romance. So, when you read a romantic scene in my stuff, know that it was crafted with lots of battle sweat, tears, and blood.

Do you hide any secrets in your books that only a few people will find?

There are a few, though most of them are crafted as inside jokes between myself, my sister and friends. One secret, however, readers will eventually discover for themselves in later books. I drop hints about a person, particularly when Walneff is around to ramble nonsense. He hints to this person, a woman, as being a “strange” teacher, while Keegan discovers in book 2 that his ring matches her symbol.

Who is this mysterious woman, and why is the author only dropping bare bone hints about her?

Nice teaser there. How many unpublished and half-finished books do you have?

I have roughly 5 more books in the Tales of the Wovlen series I am planning to write, a SciFi series in the works, and three other unrelated fantasy books I’d like to finish. I’m swamped!

I think swamped is an understatement. Though most creative authors I know are probably in the same boat. What books have most influenced your life?

This Present Darkness by Frank Peretti made a huge impact on me. It made me realize that our world is not just what we can see, hear, taste, and touch. It has many layers to it that we cannot see, hear, or otherwise sense, but that we can still affect and that can still affect us. It also made me see that magic is not needed to make a story fantastic, or to help a hero win the day. Sometimes, a little faith in the unseen can go a long way and create an even more fantastic story.

What other authors are you friends with, and how do they help you become a better writer?

Well, F.P. Spirit is definitely number one on the list! You and I constantly are bouncing ideas off each other, helping one another sharpen and hone our writing skills. You remind me not be so “wordy” with my descriptions, and I remind you to add more details to your descriptions! You tell me to not info dump, and I tell you that, sometimes, the reader just doesn’t care about that info at all. Haha!

The other author would have to be Shannon Pemrick. If I want all the plot holes discovered, if I want to avoid all the “was” words, and if I need a real fiery Leo sign opinion on something, I go talk to Shannon. In other words, if I need something to make me rethink every word I have written down, all I have to do is think “What would Shannon say about this? Yep. It’s crap. Time to rewrite it and make it awesome.”

Aw shucks. Now am I both blushing and laughing. You describe Shannon far too accurately. Do you read your book reviews? How do you deal with bad or good ones?

I do read my book reviews, and I treat them with as much neutrality as a person can muster. I am one of those indifferent sort of personalities who do not give a fiery flip about anyone’s opinion unless I ask for it. The reviewers are entitled to their opinions, and I am entitled to ignore them as I please. I read the reviews to learn about my readers, to understand what they do and don’t like in a story. If they complain that there were multiple typos and that my writing or story telling was lacking in some way, I take note and move on. If they complain that I don’t have enough magic, or they don’t like my princess, or my main character is stupid, I ignore them and move on. I wrote my books to please me, and if they don’t like it, that’s their problem (though I willingly admit that my main character is rather dense at times).

Keegan? Dense? (smirks like Seth.) Moving on, if you could tell your younger writing-self anything, what would it be?

Make every character count. Don’t throw in weird, random people and never use them again. Make sure they belong, and use them every chance you get. If it is a character you love, but they don’t belong, save them for something else (Fran did not fit into Tales of the Wovlen, but she fit perfectly into the Heroes of Ravenford!). Don’t force them into it, otherwise it will make your writing clunky and you will later forget why you had that frustrating little nobody in the story.

Also, watch whose point of view you are writing from! If you are writing from Keegan’s, don’t suddenly jump into Erewhon’s head. This is a common rookie mistake that I have made one too many times. Pick a point of view and stick with it until you’ve come to a scene cut or the next chapter.

That's great advice for any author. Well, we are coming to the end of this interview. Let's wrap up with a couple more questions. What formats are your book(s) available in (E-book, print, large print, audio)? Are you intending to expand these?

My books are currently available in paperback and Kindle on Amazon and Barns & Noble. I intend to expand to audiobook in the very near future, and I hope to one day offer special edition hardback copies when I have completed the series.

Nice. Finally, what is your preferred method to have readers get in touch with or follow you (i.e., website, personal blog, Facebook page, Goodreads, etc.) and link(s)?

I prefer people to message me and keep up with me on Facebook. However, they can also send me an email through my website.

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