History Hoydens


Historical Romance Writers Dishing the Dirt on Research

04 September 2007

Welcome, Kathrynn Dennis!

DARK RIDER hit the shelves this week! Kathrynn will be giving away signed cover flats to three commentors today. Names drawn at random.

DARK RIDER wins a K.I.S.S (Knight in Shining Silver) Award from Romantic Times Book Reviews!

“You'll need the cool winds of autumn to lower your temperature after meeting these heroes. Take a journey with Sir Robert Breton, the Dark Rider created by Kathrynn Dennis, and you'll never want to come home..." ---RT Book Reviews

"An extraordinary debut! Dark Rider is a spellbinding tale of sensuality, adventure, betrayal, and romance that I couldn't put down. Kathrynn Dennis is a shining new talent." -----Lorraine Heath, New York Times bestseller/USA Today bestseller

Dark Rider is set in medieval England. How did you become interested in this time period? What do you love about it?

I grew up in Germany and I could see castles from my bedroom window. As kids, we played knights and ladies, and pointed to the distance to claim the castles as “ours.” We took field trips to ruins and museums…I remember seeing a castle beer barrel so big it was used as dance floor. The docent told a story about the court jester who only drank wine. One night when someone slipped him a glass of water, he died on the spot of water poisoning...and I can’t forget those big footprints in the stone slab beneath the Lady of Castle’s bedroom window. Seems a knight was caught by her kingly husband, so he had to jump out of the window. Sir Knight was dressed in full armor and he was so heavy when he hit the ground, his feet left impressions. It took me several years to figure out how those footprints really got there. The stories, the places---they all made an impression on me. I love the pageantry, the largeness of the heroes, and the mysticism associated with medieval legends.

What do you like least about this period? Anything that constrained you or that you had to plot carefully around?

There was nothing to like about being born into the non-noble class in medieval Europe. Even the nobility had it tough. Poor hygiene, scare food at times, harsh weather, and primitive medicine. Add superstition and a lack of general education among the populace and things were not so good most of the time. To paraphrase that well known comment: Life was dirty, harsh and short. It was also hard to write a heroine who acted appropriately for the time and still make her strong. The good thing is, medieval women had more freedom in some ways than their Victorian or Regency counterparts (they could retain some of their property in many cases, even after they were married).

What sparked this book? Was it a character? An historical event? A scene you just couldn't get out of your head?

You know those old adages “write what you love to read” and “write what you know? Well, I do that. I love historical romance and horses. I’m a horse veterinarian and enjoy old veterinary textbooks and the history of the discipline. I've spent hours reading about how common aliments would have been treated by the medieval smithy or horse marshall (men who assumed the job of veterinarian). Then I took a heroine and made her half-horse whisperer (a telepath who can commune with horses) and half–horse healer and put her in medieval England. She’s educated of course, and she is an intuitive clinician. But at that time, her gifts would have been suspect. Doesn’t help that she challenges the common knowledge (and the men) around her. That gets her into all kinds of trouble.

Did you have to do any major research for his book? Did you stumble across anything really interesting that you didn’t already know?

Oh yeah, I learned some interesting ways to treat colic. For example, wrap the horse's belly in hot wet burlap and then drench him with good beer (now there's a real reason for him to bloat!). The general etiological diagnosis for many horse aliments in the 13th century was “he’s been elf-shot.” Lameness, colic, or a bloody nose…it didn’t matter. Elves with arrows were evidently a big problem for livestock in medieval England.

What/Who do you like to read?

Like most of us, I read it all. Sci-fi, mystery, historical fiction, literary fiction, and romance. I am reading historical romance author Lorraine Heath’s luscious “Just Wicked Enough” and I know why it’s one of RT’s TOP PICKS this month. I also just finished Khaled Hosseini’s “The Kite Runner.” Managed not to cry until the last page.

Care to share a bit about your writing process? Are you a pantser or a plotter? Do you write multiple drafts or clean up as you go?

I wing the first 15 pages or so, then plot. I hammer out the book in about a month and spend the next 10 months or so revising. Invariably, I get distracted with another story. I have to work hard to stay focused on revising the work-in-progress until I get it polished enough to be presentable. Starting the next book is my “reward.”

What are you planning to work on next?

Next up is SHADOW RIDER (Kensington, Oct 2008). It was so much fun to write. The opening scene starts with the heroine, a 13th century theriogenologist (a fancy name for livestock obstetrician) who delivers a foal affected by a real-life medical problem that makes him bark, sit like a dog, and stare at the stars. Needless to say this would have created quite a stir in medieval England. Accusations fly---he’s possessed, she’s a witch---and things look grim for both of them. Enter the SHADOW RIDER, a brooding knight with a past who comes to their rescue. But he has plans for the mystical little horse and the heroine and you can be she’s not gonna like it!

Working on book three now, a dark, "paranormal horsetorical"---with a dangerous hero, a determined heroine, and their destriers!

Check back this Thursday for more. I’ll be blogging about the trials and tribulations of making a historical novel video teaser. Oh, have I got a lot to say on that one! ;-)



Blogger Gabriele C. said...

Seing castles from a window, yes, that's Germany. :) I don't have it that close, but I do have a castle in walking distance and several more I can reach by a 10-20 minutes drive. Not to mention the old abbey, the water mill, the remains of a Roman fort, and more half timbered houses than you can count. :)

I'm a horse girl myself, so your combination of horses and Middle Ages sounds fascinating. Looks like my TBR pile has just grown again. ;)

And since I have a veterinarian here *grin* - one of my novel ideas involves a charioteer in Rome. Do you have an idea how a rival could disable a horse for some time; something that won't be found easily even for someone who knows a good deal about them?

11:47 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Yay Kathrynn!! Congrats! I loved this, lots of steamy romance and a yummy hunky hero. What a great read!


1:20 PM  
Anonymous Sally Jane Driscoll said...

Kudos and a whole flurry of elf-shots to you, KD! (I'm sure they're good luck for humans.)

What a treat it was to see this story go from blank pages to a wonderful book. It's such a terrific story--are you sure it's your debut, or have you been holding out on us all?

Someday all three "horsestoricals" will be reprinted in a single volume.

Don't forget: you owe me an autograph!



1:35 PM  
Blogger Kathrynn Dennis said...

Thank you to my dear CPs, Chelle and Sally. You guys are golden!

And just think, you will never have to read "Horsewitch" (aka DARK RIDER) again!

Hugs to you both.;

1:38 PM  
Anonymous Sally Jane Driscoll said...

Oho, you're wrong! I'm looking forward to reading it cover to cover. Don't you know that print is magical? The story will be better than ever!


1:45 PM  
Blogger Kathrynn Dennis said...

Cool, Gabriele. Have you ever been to the old Roman ruins at night? I visited a few castle grounds at night, and sometimes, with just the moon for light, I thought I could really feel what life was like . . .

As for chronically disabling a charioteer's horse...well, I've been warned not to kill or seriously hurt a horse in a book, that readers don't like it (although I did have a horse die of colic in DARK RIDER) .... so for the short disablement of a rival, the easiest thing to do would be to disable the chariot (make it have an inflicted axle or wheel problem) in such a way the rival was forced to slow down, draw the chariot to a halt to save his horses and keep it from overturning.

I was faced with how to disable the bad guy's horses in my book, too, but I didn't want to kill them or permanently harm them. Without giving it away, there is a way to do it...but honestly, it was the only way I could think of.

Try giving the rival's best horse a mental/behavior problem instead---some irrational fear, the kind that horses have, that suddenly makes him afraid of ever being hitched to a chariot again (think of all those horses we know that
had one hiccup in a horse trailer and now refuse to get on again).

With time and training, it can usually be resolved, but it would be frustrating for the rival to have this happen to a horse on his team!

1:52 PM  
Blogger Gabriele C. said...

A behavioural problem might work, thank you.

Chariot races were a harsh business and chariots overturned all the time, so if I want Ciaran to survive (and since he's the MC, he better does, lol) I can't have him involved in a serious accident. He has enough problems already. *evil grin*

The Roman fort near where I live is an early one, an earthen wall and timber construction where not much is left (the walls, the post holes and the stone foundations of the granaries mostly). The forts west of the Rhine and the Limes frontiers have later been rebuilt in stone, but not the ones in Germania proper, Arminius saw to that. :)

But I've seen castles at night, too.

2:09 PM  
Anonymous Sonja said...

I loved this story. A page turner filled with adventure! Looking forward to getting my book signed by you!!
And for all you other fans---wait until her next 2 books come out, they're just as exciting and perhaps a bit more magical.

5:31 PM  
Blogger Kathrynn Dennis said...

Sonja, thank you for your kind words!

Best, Kathrynn

5:51 PM  
Blogger Victoria Dahl said...

Kathyrnn, I can't wait! It sounds so delicious. AND different. Looks like I'll have to make another trip to the big city!

7:04 PM  
Blogger Kathrynn Dennis said...

Thanks, Vicki, and I saw TTS on Amazon today. I love the 49 cent sample blurb!

8:30 PM  
Blogger AndreaW said...

Hi Kathrynn! Congrats! Great interview. DARK RIDER sounds fabulous! I am certainly picking this one up on my next trip to the store!


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