Thursday, November 22, 2012

Creating a Literary Franchise-A Visit With Dianne Lynn Gardner

Today we bring you a special holiday weekend visit from Dianne Lynn Gardner, whose Deception Peak, her debut novel, introduced YA Fantasy readers to the Ian's Realm Series. Dianne is also releasing short stories set in the same world as the Ian's Realm series, so we thought it would be fun to explore Dianne's approach to the development of a literary franchise. We hope you enjoy this special author interview!

For those who have not read Deception Peak, give us a little background on the book and the worlds it is set in. 

The series is titled ‘The Ian's Realm Saga’. The first book, ‘Deception Peak’ is a young adult adventure fantasy about a teenager, Ian Wilson, who follows his father through a portal that magically appears on their computer screen. They travel into a deceptively beautiful Realm, where horses run free, the wind sings prophetic melodies, and their computer avatars come to life.

But when father and son are separated, Ian is abducted by a tribe of dragon worshipers and is forced to find his courage. As he struggles for his freedom and embarks on a perilous search to find his father, Ian meets the true peacekeepers of the Realm. It's then that he learns he has a greater purpose for being there.”

The Realm itself is pristine countryside. Colorful forests, vast prairies, a turquoise blue ocean and a foreboding mountain range that reaches far to the east, hinting at lands beyond. We only see a section of the Realm in the Trilogy (Deception Peak, The Dragon Shield, and Rubies and Robbers) but there is more of the world to explore in the series such as the Island of Taikus where wizards and sorceresses battle for power, Alisubbo, the technologically advanced kingdom of man, and the legends of a people that live north of the fjords.

Ian and his father Alex Wilson stumble into the Realm through their computer. But they aren't the first from our world who have arrived.

Did you originally envision writing a series, or was that something that evolved as you conceived of the story?

It evolved. The first book I wrote wasn't Deception Peak. It was actually The Dragon Shield. But being a new author, I had many professionals look at my story and one editor had so many questions about the world and what Ian was doing there, that I knew I had to write the prequel first, and that's how Deception Peak came to be. When I designed that book, I outlined a three book story arc hence creating the Trilogy.

How many books are planned in the Ian’s Realm Series?

I'm not sure. I have two other novels drafted after the Trilogy (which by the way are already written). It seems like I could go on forever because there are new characters showing themselves constantly, and their stories beg to be told. I keep thinking I need to write the grand finale after Cassandra's Castle, but it might not happen that way. The more book six unravels in my mind, the more I'm seeing another series arc developing.

When did the idea of short stories associated with the worlds of your series happen?

After I wrote Cassandra's Castle and began editing Deception Peak, I realized so much of the magic of the Realm had yet to be explained.--neither had the culture and the religion been illustrated. Those elements are very important influences in the characters and events in the Realm. The Tale of the Four Wizards are four short stories that package the 'why' questions that readers will, and should have. And since I've finished writing those shorts already, I've been able to add some additional gems in The Dragon Shield and Rubies and Robbers that weaves the stories even tighter together.

Are the various short stories stand-alones or are they connected?

You can read them as stand alones. They make nice little 'legends' as they have a folk-lore feel to them. But the stories are about four wizards who leave their homeland together in a little skiff. Fate separates them. So it seems natural that as we follow Silvio, we would question what happens to the others. Each story tells the tale of one of the wizards and the part that he plays in the history of the Realm. I think you'll lose some of the meaning if you don't read the whole series.

Tell us a little about the first short stories and a few ways in which they relate to the novel series?

The Tale of the Four Wizards is subtitled Patriarchs of the Realm. Here is the initial event:

On the island of Taikus the Sorceress Queen Hacatine overthrows the reign of the wizards. She robs its inhabitants of their power, harvesting magic from every source. Her goal? To defeat the Winds of the North and conquer the land of men. With only four more young wizards from which to draw power, Hacatine nears her goal of supremacy.

Silvio, Meneka, Kaempie and Reuben flee in the dark of night to escape the witch queen. When fate leaves the youngest of the wizards, Silvio, alone, and as a decoy, he has to either outrun the queen, or out-smart her.

Without giving you too many spoilers, Silvio ends up gaining much wisdom, though he pays a painful price. He is a crucial character in both The Diary of a Conjurer (book 4), and Cassandra's Castle (book 5). Some of my beta readers tell me he is their favorite character.

What lies ahead on the release schedule for both the series and the short stories?

The Four Wizard short stories will come out one by one as eBooks once a month until February. The Dragon Shield is scheduled to be released mid-February. We're talking about releasing Rubies and Robbers in possibly April. Sometime between the two novels we'll be releasing an anthology of the Tale of the Four Wizards for print. The Diary of a Conjurer and Cassandra's Castle are still waiting release dates.

What are the primary differences or challenges that you find in writing a novel versus a short story?

Actually I didn't think, after having written five novels that I'd be able to write a short story. But now that I have, I found it's really fun! Novels are of course harder and more time consuming. Outlining and character arcing are crucial but they also remind me of putting together a giant jigsaw puzzle. Only you not only get to piece them together, but you get to build the pieces.

Short stories are a step past the outline. Voice is really important in a short story. You character has to have character from the very beginning.

Is there anything you’ve discovered as a result of doing short stories associated with the novels? Have they lead to a broader development of your worlds?

Most definitely. They've helped me to understand the Realm better, and to realize how people's habits and cultures form simply through their beliefs systems. Knowing the origin of their cultures, I can better understand the conflicts and tensions that are rumbling under the surface.

You have created short stories based in your worlds, so what are your thoughts of basing other full series of novels in your worlds?

I know I'll be writing more novels and more short stories about the Realm. A short story can tell a lot about individuals as well as cultures and there are some individuals that have emerged that need their stories told. I think taking these kind of details and elaborating on them really enriches the series. I'm discovering things I didn't know! As far as novels go, we haven't seen the last. There are lands unexplored, and people needing to grow up. And even after five novels, there is still a conflict that has yet to be resolved.

Give us some links where readers can find your work and connect with you.

I want to first introduce everyone to my blog. I do progress reports of both my writing and illustrating. I do research reports with photos I've done a page on the filming of the trailer, how to build a yurt, I've introduced the models I use for the illustrations, and any other colorful thing I can think to put on there. Plus I keep my followers up to date on launch dates, book signings, tours and interviews. So if you want to know what's going on in the Realm, that's the grand central station!


  1. Thanks so much for this interview, Stephen! It was a joy answering these questions!

  2. Great interview, and this sounds like my kind of story! Thanks for sharing. :)