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Dina von LowenkraftPlease welcome my special guest Dina Von Lowenkraft, author of the tantalizing new YA romantic fantasy, DRAGON FIRE, jut released by Twilight Times Books!

Born in the US, Dina has lived on 4 continents, worked as a graphic artist for television and as a consultant in the fashion industry. Somewhere between New York and Paris she picked up an MBA and a black belt. Dina is currently the Regional Advisor for SCBWI Belgium, where she lives with her husband, two children and three horses. 

Dina loves to create intricate worlds filled with conflict and passion. She builds her own myths while exploring issues of belonging, racism and the search for truth… after all, how can you find true love if you don’t know who you are and what you believe in? Dina’s key to developing characters is to figure out what they would be willing to die for. And then pushing them to that limit.

Connect with Dina on the web:

Site: www.dinavonlowenkraft.com

Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/pages/Dina-von-Lowenkraft/551209381555837

Twitter: https://twitter.com/vonlowenkraft

ABOUT THE BOOK

Some choices are hard to live with.

But some choices will kill you.

When seventeen-year-old Anna first meets Rakan in her hometown north of the Arctic Circle, she is attracted to his pulsing energy. Unaware that he is a shapeshifting dragon, Anna is drawn into a murderous cycle of revenge that pits Rakan and his clan against her best friend June.

Torn between his forbidden relationship with Anna, punishable by death, and restoring his family’s honor by killing June, Rakan must decide what is right. And what is worth living – or dying – for.

PURCHASE ON AMAZON.

Q: Congratulations on the release of your debut novel, Dragon Fire. What was your inspiration for it?

A: That’s a bit complicated since Dragon Fire is the second book in that particular world since the first never got published. Originally, I wanted to write a book about two lovers who couldn’t be together because of their families, which then turned into two separate communities. From the desire to push the two groups far enough apart, and raise the stakes for the characters, I began developing two species, one became the Draak, a group of shapeshifting dragons who can manipulate matter and are very emotional, the other became the Elythia, angle-like beings who have gone the other way and can turn into light and are highly intellectual. Being a lover of series, I had imagined this story over the course of 4 books. When my first manuscript garnered no interest, even after several re-writes, I knew there was no point in writing the second book. Yet I wanted to stay in the world that I had come to love. So I pulled out a subplot from my vision of the second book and wrote that – and that subplot, the story of the shapeshifting dragon Rakan and the human Anna, became Dragon Fire.

Q: Tell us something interesting about your protagonist.

A: Rakan was forced to grow up on his own, which is a highly unusual situation for a Draak, a shapeshifting dragon. Because of this, Rakan’s first morph was particularly difficult – he had no way of knowing which of the three dragon forms (air, water or fire) he was going to turn into and he didn’t have the benefit of being mind-linked to a more experienced dragon who could help him. Although Rakan managed to morph without killing himself, it could have ended otherwise. Unable to control his rök, his dragon heart, completely, Rakan had to learn to keep it under tight control by repressing his emotions. This led to the explosive situation he finds himself in when he meets Anna who unleashes his emotions in a way he can’t control. And doesn’t really want to, even though it could kill them both.

Dragon Fire coverQ: What was your creative process like during the writing of this book and how long did it take you to complete it? Did you face any bumps along the way?

A: Since this wasn’t my first manuscript, I wanted to make sure to avoid some of the problems  that had made the previous one unsellable – such as keeping the length within market norms and making sure there was enough tension to keep readers going. In order to do that, I decided to plot my manuscript first. I spent the summer of 2010 plotting and getting each character’s motivation and inner landscape mapped out. Once I had a clear idea of where I was going, I wrote from the beginning up through the middle in a couple of months. At that point I realized I was missing a secondary antagonist. After quite a bit of hesitation, I went back and added T’eng Sten. The funny thing is that I can’t imagine Dragon Fire without him now – but he wasn’t in it at first! This was actually a rather challenging experience and it was hard to get the right balance for T’eng Sten’s overwhelming alpha male personality. Not wanting to re-write another character either in or out again, I took my time writing and re-writing Dragon Fire chapter by chapter. So it wasn’t until January 2012 that I felt like my manuscript was ready to be submitted, approximately 18 months after I had first started plotting it. Of course, once I signed with Twilight Times Books I also had several rounds of revisions and edits. So Dragon Fire wasn’t in its final form until 2013.

Q: How do you keep your narrative exciting throughout the creation of a novel?

A: You mean for me? I actually don’t think about that – my world is very much alive for me and I feel everything that happens. All the ups, all the downs. When I write I am on a permanent roller-coaster with my characters. The real challenge is trying to write what I see and feel in a way that brings it alive for the reader too.

Q: Do you experience anxiety before sitting down to write? If yes, how do you handle it?

A: I have to admit my writing style is a bit different from most. I write too much and all my problems are in cutting back and keeping things tight, making sure I don’t put in too many characters or subplots etc. All my characters have complete backgrounds and could get their own books, it’s just how my mind works. So I don’t get anxious, just excited. I do, however, get anxiety about marketing my book – so I certainly know how uncomfortable that is! And yet you have to push through it and do it. So I imagine it’s the same feeling, just in a different spot.

Q: What is your writing schedule like and how do you balance it with your other work and family time?

A: My best writing days are during the school year when I can do e-mail and social networking early in the morning, then write from say 8:30 – 12:30, have a quick lunch, ride my horse, pick up the kids, make dinner and have family time before doing some social networking and writing from 9:00 – midnight. In reality, I rarely get to have so much time writing since I am the Regional Advisor for SCBWI (Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators) Belgium and that takes a fair amount of time. Juggling writing my next manuscript, marketing Dragon Fire, setting up events for SCBWI, taking care of family and social networking isn’t easy and I often have to block set amounts of time for each – which means I always feel like I don’t have enough time. Summers are also harder since schedules are so varied and I want to spend time with family and friends – so I write when I can, often early mornings. But no matter what else is going on, I read for at least half an hour before going to bed.

Q: How do you define success?

A: Success can’t be defined without first defining success in terms of what. As a person, success for me means being happy, sharing things with friends and family, having – and enjoying – the freedom to do what I want. As a writer, success for me means feeling that creative surge and completing a project – whether published or not. As a business person looking at the profit a book will bring, then it will be financial. I personally am happy with the first two – being able to do what I want, enjoying my life with my family and friends, and having the freedom to write about the worlds that I create.

Q: What advice would you give to aspiring writers whose spouses or partners don’t support their dreams of becoming an author?

A: Persevere. If writing is important to you, don’t let it go. If you try to cut out a part of who you are to please someone else, it will never work. Sooner or later, you will be unhappy. Try to explain to your partner why writing is important to you, and try to understand why he/she has a hard time understanding it. All long term relationships are based on mutual support and understanding – but that doesn’t mean that just because it doesn’t come automatically, it won’t come. If you are partnered with someone there is a reason why you chose to be together, and it may just take some time to work through it. So keep writing. And keep communication with your partner open.

Q: George Orwell once wrote: “Writing a book is a horrible, exhausting struggle, like a long bout of some painful illness. One would never undertake such a thing if one were not driven on by some demon whom one can neither resist nor understand.” Do you agree?

A: No. I am very happy with my life. I grew up with supportive parents, have a loving husband and kids, great friends and a roof over my head. I am free to do what I want to do. I don’t write because of a demon inside or to escape reality, I write because I love the creative process and am unhappy when I can’t. So, unless that creative urge (which I in no way see as a demon) is what Orwell meant, then I don’t agree. Writing is hard, I won’t deny that, but it isn’t a horrible, exhausting struggle either!

Q:  Anything else you’d like to tell my readers?

A: I’d love to hear from you!

Thank you for this interview, Dina! 

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ImageKim Antieau has written many novels, short stories, poems, and essays. Her work has appeared in numerous publications, both in print and online, including The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction, Asimov’s SF, The Clinton Street Quarterly, The Journal of Mythic Arts, EarthFirst!, Alternet, Sage Woman, and Alfred Hitchcock’s Mystery Magazine. She was the founder, editor, and publisher of Daughters of Nyx: A Magazine of Goddess Stories, Mythmaking, and Fairy Tales. Her work has twice been short-listed for the Tiptree Award, and has appeared in many Best of the Year anthologies. Critics have admired her “literary fearlessness” and her vivid language and imagination. She has had nine novels published. Her first novel, The Jigsaw Woman, is a modern classic of feminist literature. Kim lives in thePacific Northwest with her husband, writer Mario Milosevic.

Her latest book is Her Frozen Wild.

Learn more about Kim and her writing at www.kimantieau.com.

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About Her Frozen Wild

Scientists in the Altai inSiberiauncover the 2,500 year old frozen mummy of a tattooed priestess or shaman. This mummy has the same mtDNA (mitochondrialDNA) as American archaeologist Ursula Smith whose mother disappeared inSiberia30 years earlier. Ursula travels from theU.S.toSiberiato unravel the mystery of the “lady” and meets Sergei Ivanovich Polyakov, a Russian doctor who graciously invites her into his home. After they become lovers, she discovers he has the same tattoos on his body as the tattooed lady. He tells a disbelieving Ursula that they have met before and she is destined to save the ancient People, considered as devils by some and shape-changing gods by others. A shaman takes Ursula to one of the sacred timeless caves where Ursula’s mother supposedly disappeared. When Ursula allows the shaman to tattoo her, she is thrown back in time where she must unlock the mystery of the People and their link to her past in order to save them and Sergei—even if it costs her her life.

Interview

Why don’t you begin by telling us a little about yourself?

I live in a small town inWashingtonStatein the beautiful Columbia River Gorge with my husband, writer Mario Milosevic. I grew up inMichigan, and Mario and I met atMichiganStateUniversitywhen we both attended a six-week writing workshop there one summer. We’ve lived out West for nearly thirty years and consider it our home now. We like to get out into the woods as much as we can and hike. Once a year we go toArizonaon a writing retreat. That helps us survive all the rain!

When did you decide you wanted to become an author?

I’ve been a writer for almost as long as I can remember. When I was in first grade, I won an art prize for something I had drawn. I got a lot of praise for that. It was very exciting for a six-year-old, but I remember thinking that I probably couldn’t make a living as an artist so I should become a writer instead. To this day I have no idea where a six-year-old would come up with something like that! And I now know from experience that making a living as a writer isn’t any easier than it is for an artist.

ImageDo you have another job besides writing?

Yes, I’m also a librarian. I was a branch manager, which meant I ran a public library. Now I’m a selector. This means I get to buy books for a living. For a long time I selected all the adult fiction for our library district. Now I select all the young adult books and graphic novels, for all ages.

Were you an avid reader as a child? What type of books did you enjoy reading?

I was book crazy. I read everything and anything. We had lots of history books in the house, and I gobbled those up. We also got mail order books where there’d be two books in one. They were so cool because you’d read one and flip it over and there’d be another cover and another book. I loved the classics: Jungle Book, Wizard of Oz, Swiss Family Robinson, Gulliver’s Travels, Little Women. I read Charles Dickens, Alexander Dumas, Jules Verne. I also read any horse book I could find. I loved anything that was strange and wonderful, but I didn’t really discover science fiction until I was in college. I’m not sure why. Maybe my library segregated the science fiction so I never saw it. In any case, I was eclectic in my tastes. I read pretty much anything my parents brought into the house or anything I could get from the library. I liked adventure stories. I loved the Black Stallion series and the Narnia series.

Tell us a bit about your latest book, and what inspired you to write such a story.

I read a National Geographic magazine article about the discovery of a mummy in Siberia. They called her the “ice maiden.” She was tattooed, and she was buried with a conical hat and other items that made archaeologists believe she was a priestess or shaman. As soon as I read the article, I knew I would have to write about her. That’s when Her Frozen Wild was born. In my book, archaeologists uncover a frozen tattooed female mummy in the Altai inSiberia, too. But when they take a DNA sample and put it in the worldwide DNA database, they discover her DNA matches almost perfectly with Ursula Smith’s DNA, aPortland archaeologist who is peripherally involved in the project. Nobody can explain how this could have happened since Ursula is inPortland and has never been toSiberia, and the mummy has been encased in ice for 2,500 years. Despite being terrified of flying, Ursula travels toSiberia to unravel the mystery of the “lady.” She meets Sergei Ivanovich Polyakov, a Russian doctor who invites her into his home. After they become lovers, she discovers Sergei has the same tattoos on his body as the tattooed lady. He tells a disbelieving Ursula that they have met before and she is destined to save the ancient People, considered as devils by some and shape-changing gods by others. Ursula can’t imagine she is destined for anything, but she goes with Sergei and a shaman to one of the sacred timeless caves where her mother supposedly vanished thirty years earlier. When Ursula allows the shaman to tattoo her, she is thrown back in time where she has to unlock the mystery of the People and their link to her past in order to save them and Sergei.

Did your book require a lot of research?

Yes! I probably did more research for this novel than I ever have. I generally enjoy research. I’m a librarian and a writer, so research comes naturally to me. But I had to learn a lot about a lot of topics for Her Frozen Wild. Archaeology is an avocation of mine, but I’m not an archaeologist. I hung out with an archaeologist for a while and interviewed her. Of course I learned everything I could about the Siberian ice mummies, and I kept in touch with an archaeologist who had traveled to the Altai and researched the mummies. I learned as much as I could about the Scythians, who lived in that part of the world. Some scholars have theorized that the Scythians were the source of the stories of the Amazons. I learned all about bear mythology, too. In fact, my husband and I spent some time with a modern-day Siberian shaman and became part of the Bear Clan. I also learned everything I could about cave art, tattooing, shape-shifting legends, alchemy, and Russian flora and fauna.

They say authors have immensely fragile egos… How would you handle negative criticism or a negative review?

Some of the best advice I ever got about writing was from writer Algis Budrys. He said we should ignore reviews. “You’re never as bad as they say,” he said, “and you’re never as good as they say.” I do try to ignore reviews. Fortunately, most professional reviewers have been kind to my work. It does hurt when you find something that seems harsh and cruel from a reader on some website. I try to remember that it’s just one person’s opinion.

When writing, what themes do you feel passionate about?

I seem to write a lot about finding home. I didn’t realize this for years. Writers are often oblivious to their own themes! Then I discovered that I had ended three of my novels with the word “home.” I tried to figure out what that meant, but I’m still not! I have been trying to find a place to call home all of my adult life, a place where I feel valued, where people live in harmony and kindness with one another and the environment. I do know most of my books are about how we as humans live together on this Earth.

Do you have any unusual writing quirks?

I can’t start writing a novel until I have a title. I don’t like this particular quirk! I usually come up with a title fairly quickly, but there have been times when I just couldn’t get one I liked. If I can’t get a title, I can’t start the book. This is very frustrating. I am trying to get over this little quirk.

What is your opinion about critique groups? What words of advice would you offer a novice writer who is joining one? Do you think the wrong critique group can ‘crush’ a fledgling writer?

I’m afraid I’m wary of critique groups. I was fortunate enough to go to college where I took many writing classes. This was a great foundation because I learned a lot about technique. Teachers were able to tell me what was working and what wasn’t necessarily working. The downside to that was that my writing teachers didn’t like or understand anything genre. Once I wrote a science fiction story, and my writing professor wrote in the margins that he didn’t know what to say about it. “If you must write this sort of thing, I suppose it’s all right,” he wrote. I was astonished! So I do think it’s good to have people read what you’re writing, especially when you’re first starting out. But writing groups can be harmful. As writers, we need to develop our own voices. We can’t develop Joan Didion’s voice or Stephen King’s voice; we need our own. I’m not sure you can develop your own voice when a whole chorus of people are telling you what they think you’re doing wrong. People in these groups often start writing for the group in a way that will get approval. The work coming from a particular critique groups starts sounding alike. I have been a part of some writing groups that were helpful. These were the ones where we met as peers not to critique one another but to share our work, if we wanted, and to talk about our process and how we were doing living the writing life.

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