Welcome, Kathrynn Dennis!
"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!