Interview with D.E. Wyatt, author of The Adventures of Elsabeth Soesten

12:00 AM

Doodles, doodles everywhere congratulates author D.E. Wyatt on the release of his latest book, Bait and Switch! Let's welcome him on the blog for an interview with DDE today. Read on!

1.     What inspired you to write the series, The Adventures of Elsabeth Soesten?

I went through several story ideas that eventually evolved into this series, beginning around the time I was in high school. Originally, it was a high epic fantasy with a male lead, but over time I decided that the idea of a heroine worked better so scrapped what I was working on and restarted with this new concept. The idea still remained pretty grounded in a high fantasy world, but quite a few traits of the main character served as a sort of prototype for Elsabeth Soesten. This was also around the time, 2006, I was first exposed to historical Western Martial Arts. I’ve been interested in swords and fantasy for a long time, going way back to Sierra’s Quest for Glory I, but this was the first time I learned of the efforts to reconstruct the European schools of swordsmanship. I didn’t begin studying at this time, but I liked the idea of an order of warriors built around the longsword, so made use of that as part of the heroine’s character.

I continued working on this story for a couple years, but I was never entirely comfortable with where it was going, so shelved it. I started work on another, massive project built around Germanic mythology, however I realized I probably needed to start somewhere smaller to “break in” as a writer, so while continuing to work on that project I decided to try my hand at a short story. Titled No Good Deed..., I borrowed a few concepts from the High Fantasy I had been working on, including centering it on a female lead who carried a longsword. I even took some of the names from that story, while shifting the genre towards low heroic fantasy. I wasn’t quite satisfied with the first story, so further tweaked the concept. First and foremost, I decided to make my studies of Western Martial Arts, which I had been formally studying for a few years by that point, a more central aspect of the characters and world (this will become more evident in the third book in the series). Instead of a lone heroine, I created a friend and companion in the form of Brother Hieronymus. I decided to be a little tongue-in-cheek with the genre, and while not satire or parody, I did want to poke a little at the tropes. I also decided to make each story cross into another genre. No Good Deed... became a sort of light political thriller, Bait And Switch is a heist and con, etc. Finally, the entire series is conceptualized as more like a television series, where characters are developed little bit little from one book to the next with an overarching myth arc, yet each book would tell a stand-alone story with the possibility of an occasional multi-part story.

2.     Can you give the readers an idea about what they should expect in Bait and Switch?

Bait And Switch picks up a few weeks after the end of No Good Deed... Elsabeth and Hieronymus are looking for an easy bit of work and meet up with a duo of a younger boy named Maerten, and his guardian, a swordsman named Husson. Maerten is seeking a guide and protection on the road, and Hieronymus drags Elsabeth into it. For anyone who’s ever played video games, you know that Escort Missions are seldom what you expect, and there’s certainly a few twists. Even more than No Good Deed..., Bait And Switch plays with a few of the common fantasy tropes. However I can’t really give too much away because some of them are fairly central to the plot. Elsabeth is skeptical about the job, but finds herself bonding with Maerten for reasons that she’s loath to explain to Hieronymus.

For the first time we get into the head of Brother Hieronymus; because it was written as a short story that went a little long, No Good Deed... was written entirely from Elsabeth’s point of view. Bait And Switch was planned as a full-length novel from the start, however, so he gets a few chapters of his own this time around. This book also begins to peek a little deeper into Elsabeth’s backstory, expanding slightly on a few things hinted at in No Good Deed....

3.     Do you decide the character traits before you sit down to write the book, or as you go along?

It’s really sort of a mathematician’s answer sort of thing. Some traits are established as part of the world-building/conceptualizing phase. A lot of the general aspects of Elsabeth’s character — for example that she’s a highly-skilled fighter, tends to be hot-tempered and impulsive, and gets by in life by sheer audacity — I knew even before writing the first book. Others developed as I went, either because it was a natural progression of her character, or I hit on an idea as I was writing. For example, the idea that Elsabeth loves music (and more particularly, musicians) wasn’t originally part of her character. Then I wrote a scene early in No Good Deed... where she has a tryst with a lutenist while unwinding at a tavern, and by Bait And Switch it’s become a specific quirk that she’s a bit of a groupie who swoons over skilled minstrels. Other times I come up with a general idea for why the character is the way they are, only to fill in the details later.

4.     Can you tell us what kind of research went behind Bait and Switch?

Because the world of Elsabeth Soesten is based closely on mid-15th Century Europe, a lot of it was focused on the world-building. How are buildings constructed? What are the architectural styles? How do the politics work? What is the fashion like for different regions and social classes? Because Western Martial Arts are a central aspect of the series, I spend a bit of time on the duels to make sure that the combat is accurately represented. One of the central conflicts is the rivalries between the different schools of swordsmanship, and that means researching as best I can the differences between the various fencing guilds operating in Europe at the time (of which there’s a scarcity of information, unfortunately). Quite a bit of time was spent with my training sword in hand shadow-boxing through the various moves, or running things by my instructor to have an actual partner to work against.

As for a few things specific to Bait And Switch, there was a scene that actually ended up being cut for pacing and plot reasons where Hieronymus performs minor surgery on a character to extract an arrowhead after a fight, that required looking up Medieval surgical techniques. I’ve saved that text, though, and hope to use it in another story later on. As far as what survived in the final book, there’s also a bit of discussion on poisons, antidotes, and remedies, and a bit more gruesomely what one would experience when their throat is cut (the search history of a writer is a scary, scary thing).

5.     If you had to pick only one favorite character in the book, who would you pick and why?

Hm, it’s actually a tough call. I often find Hieronymus the most amusing to write. He’s a tremendously dirty hypocrite of a priest, yet at the same time is compassionate and well-meaning. And, well, Elsabeth is the lead so it’s hard not to enjoy her.

6.     Tell us about some of the biggest challenges you face in your writing process.

Sometimes just finding time to write. Having to work a day job eats up about 9 hours out of my day once I factor in the commute. With 8 hours for sleep, that doesn’t leave much time for all the rest of the stuff that needs to get done during the day.

Also, the Internet is an evil, evil distraction.

7.     What is your writing routine like? 

There’s not much of a routine beyond sitting in front of the computer and staring at the word processor until words appear on the page. Sometimes there’s bourbon or mead involved. Also tunes on Pandora.

8.     Do you have any rejection stories to share?

These days it seems that everything is by form letter, so one rejection is pretty much the same as the next.

9.     What's next?

I’m currently working on promoting Bait And Switch and soliciting reviews, of course, and that’s taking up a lot of my writing time. I finished the first draft for the next book in the series, Prize Play, late last year and am working on preparing that for submission to my publisher. Prize Play will delve even more deeply into the series’ myth arc, as well as exploring more of Elsabeth’s past in greater detail. A fourth book, Gonnes of Navarre, is also in preliminary planning; I’ve got the basic plot outlined, it’s just a matter of outlining and fleshing out the characters and setting required. This one is going to blend a bit more with spy fiction. I’ve also jotted down some ideas for the fifth book that’s a bit more noir, and will be dealing with Hieronymus’s background. Finally, I’m currently shopping a short story, The Lesson, which expands on a story Elsabeth tells in Prize Play, and gives us a first look at Young Elsabeth and an important lessons he learns in her formative years. I’m still waiting on a response from the latest publisher on that one.

Looking away from Elsabeth and her adventures, I still have that Germanic mythology-inspired high fantasy I venture back to periodically. I’ve also just finished outlining another high fantasy with a similar setting, but will be a bit more of a traditional three-volume fantasy. I’m currently in the process of world-building, and that might be my next book out after Prize Play.

10.  Lastly, any special thoughts for the readers?

Bait And Switch and No Good Deed... are both available in print and for Kindle, so be sure to check them out!

Bait and Switch

(The Adventures of Elsabeth Soesten #2)

by D.E. Wyatt

Page count: 220
Published: March 16th 2016
Publisher: Rocking Horse Publishing
Genre: Fiction, Fantasy

There are certain things in the world that are real and others which belong in the realm of minstrels' fancies.

Elsabeth and Brother Hieronymus quickly find these lines becoming blurred when they accept a job to escort a youth named Maerten and his guardian to the Navarrese village of Checy. It is said that a powerful wizard dwells in the wilderness nearby, and Maerten is seeking him out in hopes that his magic can reveal the truth about his past. Despite her skepticism, Elsabeth finds herself unable to refuse the boy's request, and soon she and Hieronymus are drawn kicking and screaming into the tale of a destroyed kingdom and a long-lost heir.

Along the way, Elsabeth struggles to balance her growing affection for the boy in her charge with the knowledge that they must part ways when they reach their destination, and the reality of the disappointment he will face when he learns that rumors and tall tales are seldom what they seem.

Buy the book

About the author

D. E. Wyatt was born and lives in St. Louis, Missouri. Always a creative person, he first began writing as a child, and published his first work of fiction, the low-fantasy novella No Good Deed. . . in 2013. His first introduction to fantasy came with the Sierra adventure game, Hero's Quest, which also sparked his interest in fantasy as a literary genre. In addition to writing, in his spare time he studies Western Martial Arts, does 3D model work, and manages to squeeze in a Monday to Friday IT job. He is a life-long and loyal Cardinals fan who greatly enjoys teasing the Cubs fans.

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