Shades of Darkness & Light: An Interview with Author K.L. Schwengel

Today I’m super excited to bring you an interview with the very talented K.L. Schwengel, author of First of Her Kind, the first installment of the Darkness & Light Series.

Kathi hails from a small farm in Wisconsin, where she trains and trials working Australian Shepherds, paints, dabbles in photography and graphic design and weaves amazing fantasy stories. Her novella Blood Tells All was published last year in the anthology Witch Hunt of the Blood, with authors Devin O’Branagan, Sue Campbell, Keri Lake, and Krista Walsh. First of Her Kind, is her first novel – and it’s a real stunner.

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It seems everyone wants to dictate what Ciara does with her life:  Serve the Goddess, destroy the Goddess, do as you promised your aunt — all Ciara really wants is to keep the two magics she possesses from ripping her apart.

And that’s not going to be easy.

Not only are they in complete opposition to one another, blood ties pull her in divergent directions as well.  And then there’s Bolin, the man sworn to protect her.  There’s no denying the growing attraction between them, but is it Ciara he wants, or her power?

None of which will matter if Ciara can’t overcome her fear and learn how to use her gifts.  No one knows the depths of the ancient power she possesses, or what will happen if it manages to escape her control. 
 
Will she lose herself entirely?  Or be forever trapped between darkness and light?

So welcome Kathi, I’ve just finished First of Her Kind, and thoroughly enjoyed it, so I’m really looking forward to getting the inside scoop!

You’ve said First of Her Kind was inspired by one line: “There was nothing for it, in another turn of the glass Meriol would be dead.” What was it about that first image that captured your imagination?

Oh wow. Um. I think because it raised so many questions that needed answering. Who was Meriol? Why was she dying? Who would it affect? Answering those led me along the path and the story grew.

Great questions – and a great way to start the book. When did you first suspect that this might become your first novel?

Technically, I think it’s my fourth novel. But, due to my rewriteritiss, it’s the first one I’ve actually gotten to write ~Finis~ at the end of. I didn’t know if it would ever see the light of day. The first draft was bad. Which is normal for first drafts. I had a friend read it, which I normally don’t do that early in the game, and she loved it. So, I knew I had something to work with, and that was really when I decided it was worthwhile continuing on with it.

Your three core characters, Ciara, Bolin and Donovan are all strong and very memorable. Did you always see them clearly, or have there been any parts of their characters that surprised you when you were writing?

Donovan and Ciara were pretty clear right from the start. Bolin was a bit of a challenge. I knew exactly what I wanted it to be like, or for people to think he was like, but I had to balance his personality with the fact I wanted readers to love him. In the early drafts he was a bit more of an arse. I had to soften him a little. He hated that almost as much as I did and he fought me constantly.

Having read the book, I can see why – although I think you got the balance just right! However, from the outset of this book Ciara’s life is dramatically changed and she is pulled between conflicting forces and loyalties – that would be enough to destroy most people. Is there one key thing that helps her navigate her new reality?

I think it’s a combination of things. The love and respect she had for her aunt and her mother help guide her and keep her strong, even if she doesn’t share their love of the Goddess. And Bolin, of course. Even though he frustrates her to no end.

So there is clearly ‘something’ between Ciara and Bolin. Can you give us any teasers about what to expect?

I’m not entirely sure what to expect. You’re going to see the relationship grow. Bolin is doing to come to terms with his feelings but whether he’s too late, or not, remains to be seen.

I have to say I’m a bit of a Bolin fan – so go team Bolin. What is it about him you find most endearing? Is that different from Ciara?

Hurray. I’m a bit of a Bolin fan myself. But an endearing quality? Hmm, there must be something. I guess I’d have to say it’s his gentleness. Which we don’t get to see a lot of, just enough to know it’s there.

I can’t believe you had to think about that one, I loved his strength, stubbornness (with a capital S) and his dry retorts – which is why the gentleness, when he shows that side, is so appealing! On the other hand, Donovan has to be one of the coolest (unflappable), pithiest antagonists I’ve come across – and I love the way he constantly refers to the Goddess’s hags (no subtlety there). What’s your favourite aspect of his character?

I think it has to be his arrogance, which is weird, but it makes him fun to write. He’s such an infallible snob, with a kind of dry humor I appreciate.

Are you a plotter or pantster? Give us a sneak peek inside your writing process.

Total pantster that occasionally tacks notes on the wall for future reference. In fact, I have a rough idea how Book 3 starts and even have a few scenes written for it.

You also write fantastic dialogue (I’ve been getting funny looks from the family while having my own personal chortlefest) – can you give us any tips on how to keep it real?

Thank you. 😀 Tips, hmm? Pay attention to how people really talk, how they use language, what their word choices are. Donovan is very proper and correct so I purposely kept him from using contractions. Even when writing in his POV, no contractions. Most people don’t talk like that. They also don’t use proper sentence structure and they use adverbs. A lot. All the time. Also, read your dialogue out loud. If you trip over it, chances are something is wrong.

Thanks – great tips, and I see what you mean about Donovan now that you point it out! Actually I could chat all day, but is there anything else you would like to say about First of Her Kind and what we can expect to see in the coming installments?

It was a great pleasure, Raewyn, I loved your questions. I have to say, I’m getting some good comments from those who have read First of Her Kind. It makes me a little giddy. It also validates my faith in the story and the decisions I made. The second book, Emergence, will be a little darker than First of Her Kind. More characters are being introduced, Donovan gets himself a new helper, and we’re going to learn a lot more about Bolin.

I can’t wait!  Thanks so much Kathi for stopping by and giving us a sneaky peek into your writing world.

If you want to know more about Kathi, check out her excellent blog, My Random Muse – which contains links on how to get your own copy of First of Her Kind.

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16 thoughts on “Shades of Darkness & Light: An Interview with Author K.L. Schwengel

  1. I had the privilege of observing the evolution of Kathi’s book, and one of the things which impressed me was her willingness to do dreadful things to her protagonists. Many aspiring writers simply can’t bring themselves to do that, and thereby deprive their characters of the opportunity to become heroic. Some of the villainy in book one may be hard to top in book two, but I have faith. Great interview, ladies!

    1. Thanks, Josh. I’m attempting to be even more dreadful in book two, but you’re right — it’s hard. Not just from the standpoint of topping the first go round, but from the aspect of wanting to take it easy on my characters. Afraid that’s just not in the cards quite yet.

    2. I’d heard Kathi speak about that in an earlier interview – and I felt it really paid off in the book. I have a tendancy to pull back when writing the characters are getting hurt in some way shape or form, but I could really see in this book that going there really helps the story.

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