Saturday, October 31, 2020

Inside the Mind: Dan Klefstad


Welcome to Inside the Mind where we here at The Faerie Review interview authors and creators.
Our guest today is Dan Klefstad, the author behind Fiona's Guardians.

Lily: Thank you so much for agreeing to this interview Dan I couldn’t put Fiona’s Guardians down. First, that opening! What made you decide to open with Fiona talking directly to the reader? 

Dan:   I love writing in first person. It grabs the reader’s attention because the character is addressing you, and you feel a natural reflex to respond. So the reader is plunged immediately into the story. Second, it allows the writer to do a little method acting. There’s nothing like first person to force an author to think like their character, to find their voice, to decide what words they use and the ones they avoid. I do write occasionally in third person, and Fiona’s Guardians has chapters in 3rd, but I felt 1st allowed me to grip the reader right at the beginning and pull them in.

Lily: It definitely worked! How did you come up with the idea to have vampires buying blood from hospitals to avoid feeding off humans? 

Dan:   This is not a new plot device; you can find it in the 2014 film “Only Lovers Left Alive.” But I wanted to show how different Fiona is from the rest of her vampire family -- how forward-thinking and innovative she is. She has, in a very practical way, evolved ahead of the other immortals. Also, hiring humans to buy blood leads her to think of other ways humans might be useful, such as protecting her while she sleeps during the day. All this allows her to extend her life without attracting the attention of police.

Lily: Too bad not all survive serving her...What inspired the Mors Strigae order? 

Dan:   Every story needs an antagonist, but in my early drafts the vampire Fiona achieved such a level of sophistication – of civilization – that she no longer qualified as a “monster” that could push the plot forward. She’s too human, if I can call her that, too easy to empathize with. So I gave Fiona and her family an enemy with a history almost as long as the vampires: a Catholic order of monks dedicated to the extermination of vampires and the humans who protect them. Mors Strigae means “Death to Strigae,” which is what early Latin speakers called vampires. It’s a secret militant order within the Vatican that developed its own values and esprit de corps. We spend lots of time with them in one chapter set in the year 1900, watching them figure out how to do battle with vampires. By the 21st Century, however, they’re deploying drones with thermal imagers to detect vampires (who have a body temperature below freezing). They’ve also progressed from wooden stakes to using wood-tipped bullets. By contrast, the vampires are stuck in the previous century. They are completely unprepared when Mors Strigae announces its return by killing Fiona’s closest family member.

Lily: They were a brilliant contrast, and I wasn't sure which side I should be rooting for at times. On the one hand, vampires are supposed to be bad, but Fiona had evolved so much that she was almost human (if you overlook the feeding on blood bit). Final book question - would you ever work for Fiona? 

Dan:  I could only answer this question after writing the book. The answer is no.

Lily: I can't say I would want to either, although it would be interesting. Now we’d like to talk about you as a writer. Where’s your favorite place to write? 

Dan:  I have a vacation home in Williams Bay, Wisconsin. During summer weekends, it’s a playground for Chicagoans who own boats, but on weekdays or the off-season, it’s quiet. It’s filled with natural beauty so I can think there, let my imagination run wild. I often go hiking in a nature preserve that sits right in the middle of the village. Many of my best ideas emerge there.

Lily: That sounds like a beautiful place to relax and let the creativity flow. Do you like to outline before you write, or see where the story takes you? 

Dan: My friends who don’t outline call themselves “pantsers” – that is, they write from the seat of their pants. I wrote Fiona’s Guardians this way, and it took me four years. But I think I needed to progress slowly. Fiona needed time to develop, so did the other characters, and the plot. I added layer upon layer, which I believe added the kind of depth and subtext readers appreciate in a novel. But I can’t take that much time with the sequel. People want to know where the story will go next, so after the Holidays I plan to – for the first time in my life – outline a story. Hopefully, I’ll have the next one ready in two years.

Lily: Two years seems so long but I have no doubt it will be worth the wait! Do you prefer to use a computer, a typewriter, pen and paper, or dictation for your first draft? 

Dan:  I start with a Word doc that matches the requirements a publisher will want later: 12 point, Times New Roman, one-inch margins, etc. 

Lily: That's a good way to save time later too. Let’s finish up with some fun questions and get inside your mind. What show do you love to binge? 

Dan:   I’m not a binge-er actually. If I watch a good episode, I often want to turn off the TV and think about it. Go have a glass of wine, ruminate, talk it over with my wife. She likes to binge, though, and we regularly plow through episodes of “The Great British Baking Show.” And I refuse to bake, it’s too precise! 

Lily:   I love that show! I like that you take the time to enjoy the shows. I'm definitely and binge-er, but my husband isn't (but there are a few shows we like to watch together). What is the craziest thing you’ve ever done? 

Dan:  Besides write a novel? I dropped LSD a couple of times in the early 1990s. Obviously it’s risky because there are so many unknowns, but I had a good experience. 

Lily:  I've always been curious about it but I haven't tried it. What is your favorite word and why?  

Dan:   I like words you’re not supposed to say. Never is one of them. I like saying “Never.” 

Lily:  ​ Hehe I love it! What three items could you buy that would make the cashier the most uncomfortable?

Dan:  A hacksaw, bottle of whiskey, and a tourniquet.

Lily:  Sounds like that would make for an interesting night. Would you rather have super sensitive taste or super sensitive hearing?  

Dan:   Not to brag, but I have both. Perfect pitch runs in my family – and I love music of all kinds. I also have super-sensitive taste buds which means I adore food and wine. So I guess the question is: Which would I sacrifice? 

I can’t believe I’m saying this, but I think I’d take osso buco, Chateau Latour and Italian coffee over Vivaldi, Miles Davis, the Beatles, Nirvana. 

Yeah. It REALLY hurt to write that. Best move on…

Lily:  I have supersensitive taste buds but I might trade them for perfect pitch. What is something you’ve always wanted to try but have been too scared to?  

Dan:  Skydiving.

Lily:  I can't say I will ever willingly jump out of a perfectly fine plane for fun, but I can see the appeal. Is there anything else you would like to add that I haven’t included?  

Dan:  Only that I really enjoyed this interview – in spite of the food vs. music thing. You really made me think!

Lily:  I'm glad, I had a lot of fun interviewing you. How can readers discover more about you and you work?  

Dan:   I spend way too much time on
Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram. You can easily find me there, and I love to interact with readers. You can also reach me through my website.

1 comment:

  1. Lily, I had a wonderful time talking with you. Thank you so much for this opportunity.


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