Hello. You’re watching PBS, and this is Masterpiece Theater. Okay, maybe it isn’t the real Masterpiece Theater, which features Downton Abbey and Sherlock. But I’m pleased to welcome authors who have written their own masterpieces. With me today and tomorrow is the wise and prolific Charles Yallowitz, author of the epic fantasy series, Legends of Windemere. Woot! You might know Charles from his blog of the same name.
Three books of this series have already been published.
Aren’t those covers awesome? Kudos go to the cover artist: Jason Pedersen. Also, throughout this post are characters from the series, illustrated by Kayla Matt. The next book in the series is Legends of Windemere: Family of the Tri-Rune. Here’s a synopsis:
Nyx still has nightmares about casting the genocide spell in Hero’s Gate. Every night her heart is gripped by the sensation of hundreds of goblins dying by her magic. By the request of Lord Highrider and Duke Solomon, she is returning to fix the damage she caused. With Luke Callindor and Sari by her side, Nyx is ready to face the vengeful goblins and opportunistic thieves that plague Hero’s Gate. Yet, there is a darker threat that was born from her violated magic: The Krypters.
Cover concept art for Legends of Windemere: Family of the Tri-Rune
Tomorrow, I’ll discuss a series giveaway at the end of the interview. For today, Charles is waiting, and I have questions!
El Space: Four quick facts about yourself?
Charles: (1) I did fencing in high school and college. (2) I find it impossible to sit still when talking on the phone. (3) I went to college for a B.A. in Writing Arts without a backup plan, which is not recommended. (4) One of my previous jobs was Store Manager at a Hollywood Video. Unlike my time as a substitute teacher, I can tell the retail stories without crying.
El Space: Ha ha! I had the same major as an undergrad. How did you get started writing fantasy? What attracted you to the genre?
Charles: I began as a fantasy reader when I was young, because I loved the idea of magic and fighting with swords. It was so different than what one could easily find, so I felt unique for knowing about these things. This led me into Dungeons & Dragons as well as a short-lived Lord of the Rings club in seventh grade. We had to learn some Elvish and make our own weapon, so I was that level of nerd as a kid.
The writing of fantasy began in high school after I read The Book of Lost Swords by Fred Saberhagen. It was closer to comic book superheroes at the beginning, because I was focused more on characters than the world. Eventually, I branched out to create my own fantasy world, because I was attracted to the idea of designing something that people could explore. On Earth, my readers knew the locations and the science behind things. On Windemere, my readers are discovering the cities, creatures, and magic that would be seen as common to those who live there.
One final thing that drew me to fantasy is that it held my imagination more than any other genre. I really had to let my mind go to visualize what was going on in the books I was reading, which I saw as fun. A goal of mine is definitely to create the same level of escapism for anyone who reads my books. Hopefully it helps them relax and enjoy themselves.
El Space: Did you have a series in mind before or after you wrote the first book—Beginning of a Hero? Please walk us through the process of developing the series and your magic system.
Charles: Beginning of a Hero is based on a college Dungeons & Dragons game where I played Luke Callindor [illustration at right], so a series was always planned. I simply didn’t have any idea exactly where it was going for a while, because I wasn’t the one running the game. Eventually, I was told the main plot and worked the rest of the series into it. The game ended long before the story did, so I reimagined a lot of things. After I wrote the first few chapters of Beginning of a Hero, I saw that things occurring in a game don’t always translate to a book. Supporting characters are flimsy, villains get no scenes, and it’s rare that the group is split up for their own plotlines when you are in a game. This required that I deconstruct the original idea and rebuild it as something more literary.
As for the magic system, I had some extra time to figure that out. In Beginning of a Hero, the only casters were the Lich and Aedyn Karwyn. The Lich [illustration at left] is a necrocaster, so he operates differently by manipulating the life energy of others. This eventually got changed to the concept of auras. Aedyn Karwyn is a priest, so he gets his power from his faith in a deity. It wasn’t until Nyx [illustration below] debuted in Prodigy of Rainbow Tower that I had to sit down and figure out how she does what she does. I came up with the idea that everything in Windemere has a magical aura due to the realm of magic crashing into the physical plane and merging with it. This means a caster is using their own life energy to create spells, and they’ve trained their body to regenerate that energy at an above average rate. They use various focuses like words, ingredients, and gestures to give some order to the trade. Well, most do because Nyx is something else, which gets revealed around book 5 or 6.
El Space: You have quite the cast of characters. How do you decide which character gets to be the star of a book? What are the challenges of working with an ensemble cast?
Charles: I try to give everyone even time, but the main plot of the book tends to decide on who is going to take center stage. I try to give each character a time to shine in every book even if they’re not the focus. Still, some get more attention than others. I can say that Luke Callindor and Nyx will end the series with more spotlight time than the rest of the main heroes. This is because the series started with Luke, and Nyx has a deeper connection to their main quest than the other characters. She’s been training for the upcoming battle since she was a toddler, so it’s difficult for her not to take a central role.
The biggest challenge with an ensemble cast is making sure a character doesn’t fall into the cracks between the others. The best example I have now is Sari, an orphaned gypsy who debuts in Allure of the Gypsies. She was in the spotlight for a while, but it’s becoming more difficult to give her a subplot beyond the romance that she has going. This means something will have to be done to put her in a position of focus. To do this, I’m going to have to divide the group for a book or two. Many times an ensemble cast needs that “fracture period” to give characters who are going stale a chance to refresh.
Gotta stop here today. Tune in tomorrow for more “Masterpiece Theater” L. Marie style. Can’t wait to learn more about Legends of Windemere? You can find Charles at his blog, Facebook, Goodreads, Wattpad, and Twitter. Better still, head to Amazon!
Legends of Windemere cover art by Jason Pedersen. Character art by Kayla Matt. Legends of Windemere covers courtesy of Charles Yallowitz. Other covers from Goodreads.