Today I'm excited to share an interview with the very awesome Jenelle Schmidt, author of the Minstrel's Song series. The fourth and final book in the series, Minstrel's Call, will be available on February 28 (and can be pre-ordered now!). Jenelle also has a terrific blog, and has provided us Twitterers with the fun #FantasyMonth hashtag during February.
Welcome, Jenelle! Pretend my readers and I are Hollywood producers and pitch the Minstrel’s Song series to us. What’s the series premise in a nutshell?
In a mystic land of dragons, wizards, and kings, an epic adventure unfolds. Follow the lives of Oraeyn, the young squire; Kamarie, the headstrong princess; Brant, the enigmatic warrior; Yole, the orphan; and Kiernan Kane, the bumbling minstrel as they face trials and villains and learn who they truly are and where their greatest strengths lie. With conflict and obstacles around every corner, can good truly triumph over evil, especially when no one is who they seem to be?
What are some of the predominant themes you explore in Minstrel’s Call?
Coming of age is a theme that runs throughout the series. Friendship and family are both important themes that I tried to draw out even more in Minstrel’s Call than in the first three books. Good versus evil definitely lies at the heart of the story. I also sort of wove a bit of allegory into this one, which almost happened accidentally, but I really enjoyed that aspect of the story when I was writing it – I can’t say much about that, though, because: spoilers!
Tell us about your writing process. How do you develop your ideas, and what’s your balance between outlining and discovery writing?
I used to write mostly by the seat of my pants, with no idea where the story was going. However, I soon discovered that writing that way made editing a major pain. Nowadays, I try to have a little bit of a loose outline and idea of what my major plot points are. However, I’m perfectly amenable to my characters taking the reins and riding off into the sunset with me. They tend to know what’s best for the story. But it does help to have an idea of which direction we’re headed.
When it comes to ideas, I do a lot of my development with the help of my husband. When I get an idea for a story, we spend hours (sometimes years) discussing that idea and twisting it around and looking at it from many angles. I’ll jot down notes in my idea journal as we chat (and hope I can make sense of them later). Oftentimes, the story I write doesn’t look much like our original discussions, but so much of the refining and developing happens as we talk about the story, the characters, and the world-building that I often tease him that he should be asking for co-author credit!
What was the biggest challenge you faced in getting Minstrel’s Call written and published, and how did you overcome it?
There were several challenges to completing this project. The two biggest ones were getting the rough draft written, and publishing the previous books in the series.
Drafting is my favorite part of any new project, but it is also the most daunting. At least with editing, there is already something there… it can be tweaked, fixed, polished, reworded. With that first draft, there is only a blank page and endless possibility. Minstrel’s Call was a particularly difficult rough draft because I honestly thought the story was finished after Yorien’s Hand (book 3). So when it became apparent that a final chapter was necessary to really bring everything to a satisfying end, I didn’t have any idea what to write! I made a few false starts, and even wrote an 80,000-word draft of a completely different angle on the story before I settled on the right way to wrap up the series.
The other main challenge with publishing Minstrel’s Call and bringing it to completion was the necessary task of editing and publishing books 1-3. All four books were written before I went to publication, so then began the tremendous effort of editing and polishing. Minstrel’s Call represents the culmination of 17 years of work (with quite a few years of the books all just sitting there, waiting patiently for me to finish the writing as I graduated from college, got married, got my first full-time job, and had 4 children) and the tender-loving-care of over a dozen different people who were all instrumental to helping me arrive here today!
Last question–could you tell us about the giveaway you're running for Minstrel's Call?
I am giving away 1 Dragon Sword, 1 252-piece puzzle of the artwork for Minstrel’s Call, and 1 signed paperback copy of Minstrel’s Call. (Due to standard-postal shipping restrictions of blades outside the continental USA, and the lack of reliable dragons these days, I cannot offer the sword to winners outside the U.S. However, if someone outside the U.S. wins that particular item, I will send them a $35 Amazon Gift Card instead).
An ACTUAL SWORD, people. Get in on this.
Readers, be sure to pre-order Jenelle's book so you're among the first to download it on the 28th! Also, don't forget to to add it to your Goodreads shelves. If you're not up to date on the Minstrel's Song series, the first three books are now available on Amazon.
Here are some more places where you can find Jenelle on the internet:
Amazon Author Page: https://www.amazon.com/Jenelle-Leanne-Schmidt/e/B008J4H9ZS/
Thanks so much for visiting the blog today, Jenelle!