Kyra Halland, author of Beneath the Canyons and several other Weird Westerns, has been kind enough to answer a few questions today.
Kyra is one of the many talented authors participating in the Weird Western bundle on StoryBundle.com.
(Hint, hint...get your bundle while you can!)
Kyra's entry in the bundle is Beneath the Canyons. Here's the synopsis:
Cowboys and gunslingers meet wizards in this high fantasy series inspired by the Old West. Silas Vendine is a mage and bounty hunter, on the hunt for renegade mages. He's also a freedom fighter, sworn to protect the non-magical people of the Wildings from ambitious mages both lawless and lawful. It's a dangerous life and Silas knows it, but when he comes to the town of Bitterbush Springs, he finds more danger and excitement than he bargained for...
In Bitterbush Springs on the trail of a dangerous rogue mage, Silas meets Lainie Banfrey, a young woman both drawn to and terrified of her own developing magical powers. Though Lainie has been taught all her life to hate and fear wizards, she and Silas team up to stop the renegade who has brought her hometown to the brink of open warfare. The hunt takes them deep beneath forbidden lands held by the hostile A'ayimat people, where only Silas's skills and Lainie's untamed, untrained power can save them from the rogue mage and the dark magic he has loosed into the world.
I would like to offer Kyra a sincere welcome. She has been very gracious in hosting many of the authors in the Weird Western bundle.
First of all, thank you so much for having me on your blog! I loved your book Spellslinger.
Thanks, Kyra! Tell us a little about yourself...why do you write?
I've always loved stories and I've always loved to read. I especially enjoy fantasy and romance, and I had a hard time finding books that combine the two in a way I found satisfactory. So, years ago, when I was making the transition from grad school to being a stay-at-home mom with my first baby, I decided to try writing the kinds of novels I wanted to read. It was lots of fun, and then, after the first book, all these characters started showing up in my head demanding that I tell their stories. The only way to keep them from driving me nuts is to write those stories.
By the way, that first baby is now a dad himself, so that tells you how long ago this was.
What are your interests and motivations as a writer?
My main area or genre is fantasy with a strong romantic storyline, where the relationship between the two main characters is driven by magical/fantasy elements and where the couple has to work together to stop whatever is threatening their world (whether it's the whole world or just their small part of it).
My main motivation for writing is that, as I said, these characters appear in my head and I feel powerfully driven to give life to their stories and put them out into the world. It's incredibly satisfying and fun to take these visions and ideas and give them tangible form.
What was your inspiration for Beneath the Canyons?
Somehow, I don't remember how, I got the idea that it would be really cool to combine westerns and magic. Something about the contrast between the hardscrabble realities of life in the Old West and the wonders and mysteries of magic. Also, I've lived in the western U.S. all my life (mainly in Arizona), and the western landscapes seem to hold their own magic and mystery. When I was developing the world and idea of Beneath the Canyons, I wanted something that was very much a fantasy world, not our world, but with all the familiar elements from classic western books and movies and the western landscapes that I grew up and still live among. I tried to think of what sort of character would best embody the two elements, western and fantasy, and that's when my bounty-hunting, gunslinging mage Silas Vendine was born. So Beneath the Canyons was actually an exception to my usual process of getting the character first and then exploring the story and the world.
What would you like for readers to know about the Daughter of the Wildings series?
Beneath the Canyons started out as a standalone, just an experiment, but when I got to the end of the book, the lead characters, Silas and Lainie, were in worse trouble than they were at the beginning of the book! So, obviously, a sequel was demanded, and I ended up working out a storyline that turned into a whole series. It's six books long, but the books are fairly short, so the entire series is about the length of one average epic fantasy tome.
I intentionally used the tropes and traditions of the classic pulp westerns as inspiration for the world and events in Daughter of the Wildings. I had the most fun ever writing this series; Silas and Lainie were a lot of fun to work with, and it was also great fun combining those classic western tropes with the fantasy and romantic elements in the story.
Does your writing have any particular themes or common threads?
The power of love to heal, strengthen, and redeem is a big one. Also the value of freedom, hard work, family, faith, self-reliance and self-determination, and doing the right thing even when it's hard. I'm part of a movement supporting and promoting "noblebright" books, and part of our description or "mission statement," if you will, is "Noblebright fantasy characters have the courage to risk kindness, honesty, integrity, and love; to fight against their own flaws and the darkness of the world around them; and to find hope in a grim world." (quote from C.J. Brightley) That idea is what's at the heart of all my books.
What draws you to Weird Westerns?
Like I said, I'm fascinated by the juxtaposition of the hard realities of life in an Old West-inspired setting (whether our world or another world) and fantastical or speculative elements. The two ideas don't just contrast with each other but enhance each other as well. There's something magical and sacred about the wide-open landscapes of the west, during a thunderstorm or at night when the only light comes from the moon and stars, as well as in the lives of strong people who value family, honesty, loyalty, and hard work. On the flip side, no matter how amazing magic or advanced technology is, we see its true nature in the effects it has on the lives of real people. Weird westerns pull those contrasting, complementary elements together into something greater than the sum of the parts, into compelling stories that cover (as we see in the StoryBundle) a wide variety of settings, characters, conflicts, and motivations.
What are your plans for your next book? Will it be another Wildings novel or something else entirely?
Right now I'm working on a couple of standalone high fantasy novels set in my Estelend world, where magical power comes through natural features in the landscape. These are completed drafts, going through the revision and editing process. At the same time, yes, I'm working on the first draft of a follow-up series to Daughter of the Wildings, titled Defenders of the Wildings. It returns to Silas and Lainie about six years after the end of Daughter of the Wildings, and picks up a conflict that is hinted at in book 5, City of Mages. I also have ideas for a third series, Children of the Wildings.
What do you look for in a book (your own or others')?
A sense of wonder, a cool world with interesting stuff happening in it, and I always appreciate an engaging romance and also a noblebright outlook. But mostly, give me interesting and engaging characters doing interesting things that matter, characters that I care about and want to spend time with.
Is there anything you would like for readers to know about you?
I'm a wife, mom, grandma, cat servant, metalhead, and anime fan; I'm a reader as well as a writer; I love telling stories that I love and I hope readers will have as much fun reading my books as I have writing them; and I'm profoundly grateful for the support and encouragement of my readers and my fellow writers.
Many thanks, Kyra, for taking the time to answer my questions.
Best of luck writing.
May the stories flow!
Visit StoryBundle.com to check out Beneath the Canyons and other exciting independent Weird Western authors!