Welcome to Written in the Mitten's newest category: Mitten Authors! Today we have my good friend and fellow Michigan author Jim Doran with us to discuss his novel Kingdom Come and the challenges of the writer's life.
Question #1: What is Kingdom Come?
Jim: Kingdom Come is a new adult, fantasy, sword-and-sorcery novel set in a fairytale world. It's a portal adventure of a young man, Harold, who is transported to a magical land called Kingdom. Harold befriends a group of fellow adventurers while on a quest to reunite five sisters and fulfill a prophecy. Fairy tales from different sources exist together in Kingdom.
Question #2: Reading this book, I loved spotting the fairy tales I know and the ones I've never heard of! How did you discover these lesser known stories?
Jim: There are over fifteen fairy tales referenced in Kingdom Come. I read all of Grimm's Fairy Tales and stories by Hans Christian Anderson again and again, but they weren't the only ones. I decided I wanted a mix of popular and obscure fairy tale characters for the five sisters. Two popular characters, one you may have heard of, and two you likely haven't.
Question #3: What inspires your writing (movies, places, books, etc.)?
Jim: Books are my main source of inspiration, but movies are a close second. Usually, what inspires me is not a good book or movie, but one I was dissatisfied with. I finish a book or movie and say to myself "I wish it had went such-and-such way instead" and then I build a story around it. (Kingdom Come originally started as a Dungeons & Dragons game I was going to write. It grew so large I decided to write it as a novel. The other inspiration was the play Into the Woods.)
Me: I relate to this so much. In fact, I get excited when a book/movie doesn't take the direction I want because it means that storyline is up for grabs!
Question #4: Who was your favorite character to write and why?
Jim: My favorite character to write was Planet. Planet, the pixie and the first person Harold meets in Kingdom, was supposed to be a minor character and one of the "crew" helping Harold complete the prophecy. Suddenly, she started making jokes when I wasn't paying attention, and saying things when it wasn't her turn. She was constantly talking to me while I wrote the first draft. Planet was supposed to be a minor character, and if she had remained one, her fate would've been different, but I'm glad she stepped forward because it changed the tone of the book significantly.
Me: I can't even imagine Kingdom Come without Planet! But knowing her like you do now, I'm sure it came as no surprise that once she started talking to you, she never stopped. ;) What an endearing character.
Question #5: If bookshelves were dorm rooms, what books would make the best roommates for Kingdom Come?
Jim: If my novel were college-bound, and I was going to choose a roommate for it, I'd want a novel it could learn from and interact with. Something similar but not the same. So the "company" I'd like Kingdom Come to keep would be A Darker Shade of Magic by V. E. Schwab. Kingdom could learn a lot about magic systems from that book, and I'd like to see a pairing of Lila and Helga. Another good roommate would be Marissa Meyer's Lunar Chronicles. I've often thought, as a writing exercise, I'd like to have my Cinderella meet Meyer's Cinder and watch the conversation unfold.
Me: Thanks for adding to my TBR pile! Anyone who'd make a good roommate for Helga (my favorite character from Kingdom Come) is a girl I want to read about.
Question #6: Describe the ideal reader for Kingdom Come. Someone who likes...
Jim: I think the reader who will get the most out of it is someone who enjoys portal fantasies like The Chronicles of Narnia, and a reader who enjoys whimsical tales with more humor than in a typical NA novel. Also people who like fairy tale retellings should give it a try. While I don't think of Kingdom Come as a fairy tale retelling, readers who can't get enough of fairy tales would enjoy it.
Question #7: As authors, we all deal with writer's block at some point or another. What are your tricks for breaking through?
Jim: Writer's block! The writer's equivalent of finding a hair in your food. I was once stuck trying to come up with an idea for the fourth book in one of my series, so I played the "What if" game. "What if my good characters turned bad?" and that was followed by "What if my characters disappeared?" This one made me think of a question that caught fire and became the fourth book. So I play the "What If" game to break me out of doldrums of "I don't know what to write."
Me: That's a fantastic idea! I'll definitely keep it in mind next time I'm banging my head against writer's block.
Question #8: As an author, you're in a position a lot of writers can relate to. You have a day job, a family, and an active online presence and participation in the writing community. Do you have any tips for balancing it all?
Jim: This is the hardest part of life. Can we petition to have forty-eight hour days, please? You have to take time to live, but also to write, to work, to play, to pray. The list goes on, and I want to do it all! I'm sure this is what most of us struggle with. Quite frankly, I live by lists. Today, I had on my list self-training for work, help my son with his homework, revise my latest chapter, and read a friend's novel to page 190. You lose spontaneity with lists, but it is an effective way to find balance.
Me: I agree. Lists are lifesavers! They may feel like they're constricting your creativity, but I find that when you make the time for writing and show up consistently, you get more done and are more satisfied than when relying on spontaneity.
Bonus Question: There are a lot of portal fantasies. What makes yours unique?
Jim: I'd like to say a portal fantasy to a fairytale world is unique, but it isn't. The Land of Stories by Chris Colfer has the same idea except it's a MG novel. But Kingdom Come has a bit more going on than spells and swords. I wanted to create a world that would reflect culture on Earth back like a mirror and ask questions that people think of as old fashioned. "Why can't we trust another person's word any more?" "Why is it so hard to believe someone will save their virginity for marriage?" "What does a spiritual test look like (compared to a physical or mental one)?" Fantasy allows us to explore interesting questions without the trappings of straight fiction. My hope for people who read Kingdom Come is to enjoy the novel but ponder the questions it raises too.
Me: Thanks so much for sharing, Jim! If anyone wants to know more about Kingdom Come, you can also read my review here.
Jim Doran is a genre writer of fantasy, mystery, and suspense who currently calls southeast Michigan home. Kingdom Come is his first novel. You can read more about Kingdom at www.jimdorantales.com and follow Jim on Twitter at @JDoran711.
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