Interview with C.E. Winterland

Q: Can you tell us a bit about Awareness, your first book in the Mindsight series? 

A: Awareness set within the construct of a medieval world during a sliver of time following social and military upheaval.  There is a tentative peace throughout the known realms, though this is in fact the deep-seated plan of a man named Whitsinne, who would control it all.

Awareness begins the story of a young man from the quiet town of Mecured far from the troubles and the influence of Whitsinne, a young man named Gen.  Gen, at eighteen years old, realizes that he’s not quite like his friends and neighbors in Mecured, but is governed almost unfavorably by his often volatile emotions, which tends to set him apart from his peers.

It then comes as a fantastic surprise to him to learn that that very quality, his ever-shifting emotional states, has been a clue those eighteen years that he is not the average young man he has strived to be, yearned to be.  A sage member of his quiet Mecuredan town discovers the secret behind Gen’s curious emotional wafting, a peculiar ability never before heard of so far as the wise Foldhard knows – the frightening and curious ability that develops into Gen’s ‘mindsight’.

The once-thought average life of Gen of Mecured then begins to spiral through a path wrought of strange adventures through this land poised on the brink of war and danger, all designed by the hand of the evil Whitsinne.  As he meets new people and learns of the world for which he has been unprepared having grown up in the quietude of Mecured, Gen learns that his role is far greater than any might have guessed.  He is forced to learn of Prophecy, of curious religions, and of peoples whose ways are strange and fantastical to him.

Worse still, though he knows very little of the world and its ways, each step of his travels brings him closer to the long reach of Lord Whitsinne and his nefarious designs.  Each day wraps him more tightly within a shroud of intrigue and power, battle and fright.  This is Gen’s awakening.  He is forced to grow up in this environment of causes greater than he can fathom, all the while struggling to keep himself hidden from Lord Whitsinne, who would have him at any cost – the first lesson of young Gen’s life.

Awareness is the story of this awakening, Gen’s lessons of the very real and dangerous world into which he must step.  He learns as he makes his way, and to falter could very well mean his death, and the deaths of those who would follow him or give him aid.  And through it all he struggles with the desire to be that average young man from a quiet town far from the struggles of the world… which he refuses to see is impossible.

Q: How did you come up with the idea for the Mindsight series?

A: As a young man, I was a fairly avid reader.  A friend handed me Edgar Rice Burroughs’ Tarzan series when I was quite young, which started me on a path of devouring books of all kinds from that day forward.  I was introduced to “Fantasy” shortly thereafter by another friend – the series was The Belgariad, my first taste of the genre, in truth.

After reading Eddings, however, I found that a lot of the fantasy to which I was introduced, though entertaining and enticing, could be even moreso, and I began what has since become a never-ending journey toward finding the greatest fantasy there is.

It didn’t take too long to see that this idea of the greatest fantasy was a sort of ‘Holy Grail’ quest, and one day I put all of my ideas of what could have been better about the tales I’d read together, and decided to try to write my own.  I had no idea at that time where this notion would take me, and fifteen years later I look back on my path and see that that one decision as a very young man has shaped my life into the training that all goes to prepare me to join that quest for the so-called grail.

The ambition to write the greatest fantasy shifted a bit as I have learned the realities of actually doing so, and while I could hope for the Mindsight Series to be that elusive grail, and even as a part of me strives to make it so, I now wish to write the series as the best story I can make it, pour myself into it so much as I can, and hope it will bring a taste of Gen’s world to others as closely as it lives to me. .

Q: What do you think will be unique about the series?

A: This is one of the greatest challenges of writing Fantasy, making a unique world and characters within a framework so tantalizingly set out by great writers like Tolkien and certainly many others.  It can be an interesting struggle to make the break from ideas that have come before, to avoid cliché’s laid out… races, characters, world-types, all of it.  There is a very large body of work in Fantasy out there, and a fan-base that grows every day.

With all of that in mind, Awareness is unique in many different ways.  The characters, though with many of the same elements of the general cast within a fantasy framework, are designed to be surprising, and at times off-key.  People are a source of constant surprise, and characters should be as well.

Another part of fantasy is the use of magic or fantastical abilities often used by characters.  The use of what comes to be called ‘mindsight’ in the story is never actually defined as magic or sorcery, but almost as a skill.  Some characters may be good at martial ability, some archery, some horsemanship.  Mindsight is designed in this way, with a basis in logical reality and science.  When I first started reading Fantasy, one of  my favorite things to do was fantasize about how possible it could be to perform magic.  This made up the basis of the capacity for ‘mindsight’ for me… that it could be explained in such a way that made it feel possible for the reader.

The greatest part of what makes the Mindsight Series unique is a philosophy that will surface throughout the series like cooking oil in a pot of water.  As much as the series is the tale of Gen of Mecured, it is also a way to complete a philosophy of Gen’s world that is left purposefully nebulous in the story itself.  Religions and theology are loosely understood in the world, even by their respective advocates.  Gen himself looks for clearly defined religious theories and has trouble identifying anything that can be easily described.  The series itself, while never actually stating the philosophy, is designed to bring Gen and the reader to an understanding of a philosophy of the universe, the philosophy of Gen’s universe.

Q: Where do you get your inspiration from?

I once had a teacher in high school who said, “If you want to become a writer, the one thing you must do is read… read everything…”.

It’s true in large part.  Of course, there is the craft to consider, of which you can certainly learn a lot by reading, but practice and some healthy study help as well.  Of course considering the ‘craft’ of writing, once you feel you have mastered it, you may as well quit, because as in life, if you stop learning you do not grow, and growth is essential in everything.

In answer to this question, inspiration comes from everything, all of the time.  Inspiration for characters comes from real people for the most part.  Inspiration for stories from life itself.  I read a quote recently from an author that I’ll paraphrase though, which said roughly ‘the wife of a writer can never understand that when he is staring absently out the window, he’s working’.  I’ve gotten inspiration from television commercials once or twice even.

Q: What was the most challenging aspect of writing the story?

I find that characterization and the interaction of characters is where a great portion of the work of writing goes for me.  Often a character will grow almost on its own from the framework or context of the story, but making that character both believable and at the same time striking is no mean feat.  Breaking a character out of any kind of routine is a struggle sometimes, when there is so much to consider about a scene or a relationship.  I find that a large part of my work on the characters themselves first happens at their inception, then later in editing where the other concerns of the scene, for example, can be set aside if momentarily.

But there is another part of the writing which I would say holds equally as much challenge.  It is even hard to say where exactly this aspect takes place.  That is the construct of the tale itself, the underlying how’s and why’s of everything.  Much of this happens in planning and design, but it is an ever growing and changing aspect of the whole writing process.  I realize that this sounds fairly nebulous, but I mean that if something happens, say, in the first chapter of the story, how does that link to the other chapters.  Everything is interconnected, every idea a path to another that may seem on the surface unrelated.  Making that connection, if even only by suggestion, is constant work.  I find that this is a challenge different in method from the characterization, but involving more work, more notes, more concentration even.  I mention it second only because it is elusive and is hard to encapsulate in the few words I’ve given here.

Q: What led up to the publication of the book? Did you use an agent, or did you submit it directly to the publishers?

A: I have tried every available option toward getting Awareness published, actually.  It’s been an interesting adventure to say the least.  I have never actually published anything before the epic of Awareness.  I tend to think in the size and complexity of the epic adventure.  While I’ve a short story or two completed, the shortest of them is no less than seventy pages.

I have over several years submitted the work to anyone who would look at it.  It can be very challenging to interest anyone in reading an unpublished manuscript by an unpublished writer.  Over the years Awareness has been read by many different Agents, Editors, and Publishers.

Awareness is published now under a publisher direct.  There have been agents and editors with offers, but there are always issues, and the choice does not seem to get any easier with time.  In the end, I felt that Awareness was ready for readers, despite the fact that there seems to be no end to the editing process.  Someone once said that there comes a time where the writer just has to stop editing and get the book out there, because I know that I could probably continue to edit Awareness forever.

Q: What has the Internet meant for you as an author?

A: The Internet, as a computer user since the inception of the personal computer, has meant a lot to me as a person.  Right now computers are such an inseparable part of my life in general that it’s almost hard for me to remember sitting up at 2am writing the very first edition of Awareness long-hand with a pen.

As an author, the Internet is both an incredible tool for everything from research to communication with other writers, and it is an incredible distraction at times for someone like me, who uses it regularly for everything from entertainment to just ‘seeing what’s out there’.

Right now, with Awareness just coming off the presses and beginning the marketing of the book itself, the internet is likely the most used tool I’ve got.  I’ve got a site dedicated to the Mindsight Series at www.mindsightseries.com as well as resources such as sffworld.com to utilize toward every use imaginable.  I imagine that I will publish stories on-line at some time in the future as well, and find that an exciting prospect.

During the several phases of getting Awareness out there in print, the internet was a tool for me to submit the manuscript, look at publishing contracts, and get advice from writers, editors and publishers as well.  In short and to quote a friend of mine from the other day, “The internet, for better or worse, is part of my life now that I just can’t live without anymore…”.

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