Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Author Spotlight: Kim Rendfeld

This week we welcome author Kim Rendfeld to our spotlight on Pastimes. A former journalist and current copy editor for a university public relations office, Kim Rendfeld has a lifelong fascination with fairy tales and legends, which set her on her quest to write The Cross and the Dragon and other tales set during Charlemagne’s reign. She lives in Indiana with her husband, Randy, and their spoiled cats. They have a daughter and three granddaughters.

Kim will be giving away one copy of The Cross and the Dragon to a commenter this week (U.S. resident). All you have to do to be eligible for the drawing is answer this question: What is the relationship between Hruodland and King Charles in The Cross and the Dragon? (Hint: the answer is in the first chapter, posted on kimrendfeld.com.)

Hi, Kim, and thanks for joining us at Novel PASTimes! We’re glad to have this chance to learn more about you and your books. Tell us a little bit about the storyline for your latest novel, The Cross and the Dragon.

Thank you for this opportunity. I enjoy talking about my book, a tale of love amid the wars and blood feuds of Charlemagne’s reign. I’ll start off with the blurb:

Francia, 778: Alda has never forgotten Ganelon’s vow of vengeance when she married his rival, Hruodland. Yet the jilted suitor’s malice is nothing compared to Alda’s premonition of disaster for her beloved, battle-scarred husband.

Although the army invading Hispania is the largest ever and King Charles has never lost a war, Alda cannot shake her anxiety. Determined to keep Hruodland from harm, even if it exposes her to danger, Alda gives him a charmed dragon amulet.

Is its magic enough to keep Alda’s worst fears from coming true—and protect her from Ganelon?

Magic and chivalry – always a good combination! Introduce us briefly to the main characters.

Alda: There is a lot to like about the heroine. She’s intelligent, clever, and compassionate, and refuses to accept a marriage to a man who abuses his servants—and insults her by saying she’s too thin. What I most admire about her is her courage, which spurs her to give her most precious possession to her husband in an age that believes in magic and sends her into danger to protect him.

Hruodland: The hero likes a woman who has a mind of her own and will do everything he can to protect her, even at the risk of his own safety. He is a man of his times, though, and does not completely trust his wife. Still, he feels like he would be lost without her.

Ganelon: His good looks conceal a dark and twisted heart. He is a villain readers will love to hate.

What drew you toward writing historical novels? And how did you settle on writing stories set during the time of Charlemagne?

On a family vacation to Germany, we learned of a legend about the origin of Rolandsbogen, a Rhineland castle ruin. To elaborate would introduce a spoiler, but the story involves lovers being separated by a lie. The legend is not true, but it refused to leave me alone until I sat down and wrote about it. So I had to learn about the characters in the legend, one of whom was Roland (Hruodland in The Cross and the Dragon).

I first read The Song of Roland (an early form of historical fiction, heavy on the fiction and light on the history), then dug into the real events of Charlemagne’s reign. And what a fascinating history it is! Charles’s personal life rivaled a soap opera, and it had political consequences. At the beginning of The Cross and the Dragon, he is twice divorced, married to pregnant wife No. 3, and about to go to war with his ex-father-in-law, who is threatening Rome. I didn’t make any of that up.

Just a bit more proof that real life can be crazier than fiction. J Details for publishing your next novel, The Ashes of Heaven’s Pillar, are also in the works. Can you tell us anything about it?

I would be happy to. Here is the latest version of the blurb for my second book, forthcoming from Fireship Press:

Can a mother’s love triumph over war?

Charlemagne’s 772 battles in Saxony have left Leova with nothing but her two children, Deorlaf and Sunwynn. Her husband died in combat. Her faith lies in the ashes of the Irminsul, the Pillar of Heaven. And the relatives obligated to defend her and her family sold them into slavery, stealing their farm.

Taken into Francia, Leova will stop at nothing to protect her son and daughter, even if it means sacrificing her honor and her safety. Her determination only grows stronger as Sunwynn blossoms into a beautiful young woman attracting the lust of a cruel master and Deorlaf becomes a headstrong man willing to brave starvation and demons to free his family.

Yet Leova’s most difficult dilemma comes in the form of a Frankish friend, Hugh. He saves Deorlaf from a fanatical Saxon Christian and is Sunwynn’s champion—and he is the warrior who slew Leova’s husband.

Sounds like another great story. What kinds of things spark the ideas for your books?

The Ashes of Heaven’s Pillar came from material I couldn’t fit into The Cross and the Dragon. There is so much history, to include it all would make the book lose its focus.

The main characters in The Cross and the Dragon are aristocrats, and I could not give much attention to the other side of the socioeconomic spectrum, peasants and slaves. Leova and her children originally were supporting characters, but they kept insisting I tell their story. Finally, I had to listen and let them hijack the plot.

In my research, I also found that Charlemagne’s wars with the Saxons were the most bitter. In his first war, he destroyed the Irminsul, a pillar the Saxons worshipped. Little is known about the Saxon pagan religion, but it would not be too much of a stretch for them to believe anyone who harmed the pillar would be punished by the gods. The question rose in my mind: what would it be like if the basis of what you thought was true turned out otherwise?

Writing Ashes let me explore those issues.

Historical fiction requires so much research. What’s the most interesting (or unusual, or funny) thing you’ve done in the name of research for a book? Or, what’s one of the most challenging things about researching books set in the time of Charlemagne?

Visitors, come back tomorrow for Kim’s answer to this and other questions – including the thing about medieval life that surprised her most.

And, don’t forget to check out the first chapter of her book so you can enter for your chance to win a copy of The Cross and the Dragon. Go to this link on Karen’s website:

Then, come back here and leave a comment with the answer to this question: What is the relationship between Hruodland and King Charles in The Cross and the Dragon?

The drawing will be held Friday morning by 8 a.m. ET. U.S. residents only for this week’s contest, please.

See you tomorrow!


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