Renee Wildes is an award-winning Wausau WI writer. She grew up reading fantasy authors Terry Brooks and Mercedes Lackey and is a huge Joseph Campbell fan, so the minute she discovered romance novels it became inevitable that she would combine it all and write fantasy romance. Renee is a history buff, from medieval times back to ancient Greece, esp. Sparta. As a Navy brat and a cop’s kid, she gravitated to protector/guardian heroes and heroines. She’s had horses her whole life, so became the only vet tech in a family of nurses. It all comes together in her Guardians of Light series for Samhain Publishing – fantasy, action, romance, heroics and lots of critters!
Guardians of Light series:
Bk 1 - Duality
Bk 2 - Hedda’s Sword
Bk 3 - Lycan Tides
Bk 4 - Dust of Dreams
Bk 5 - Riever’s Heart – NEW – OUT 9/27/11
How do you usually come up with a story idea? Dreams? Writer’s journal? Eavesdropping on conversations? Newpaper?
I’m a total plotter, so I do a lot of thinking about my characters. Dara in Duality began with a mental image of a red-haired woman kneeling in a burning room. When I found out she’d started the fire, it got interesting. Now I usually start with a minor pre-existing character in a previous book, figure out what they want & need and who would be a good match for them. The whole series hinges on the concept of duality, as I’m fond of putting opposites together. In Hedda’s Sword I put the ultimate ladies man with a man-hating assassin nun, in Lycan Tides I paired a werewolf & a selkie, and in Dust of Dreams I paired a dream faerie & an elven spirit healer, both creatures of air—and trapped them underground.
I’m evil that way.
Who or what inspires you when your creative mojo is lagging?
I’m a huge sword and sorcery movie buff; my favorites are Dragonheart and Willow.
I also am a big fan of listening to music while plotting and writing. Medaeival Baebes is a standard. I listen to Nightwish & Axel Rudi Pell for dark magic & battle scenes. Kate Price & Enya for love scenes. For my “Nordic” books Hedda’s Sword and Riever’s Heart I have Gamarna, Hedningarna & Varttina. I like the dichotomy of Nordic harmonies—not quite blended, leaves an uneasy feeling in the back of your mind which is good when you’re trying to pen conflict and distrust.
I write love scenes longhand on paper first, then transcribe onto the computer. Somehow forming the letters is more sensual—computers just aren’t sexy!
Who is your Yoda—your seasoned mentor?
We’ve never met but hands down it’s Mercedes Lackey. I grew up reading her and wanting to be her. Her characters are human. Her NON-human characters are especially human. Her writing style’s very informal, conversational. Her dialogue’s direct—no filler. Her worldbuilding…she has no equal. She makes the unreal real—and you believe it. She’s the most gifted writer I know of. Everything I am is because of her!
The biggest compliment I ever got was from an RWA contest judge, back before I was published, who said my writing reminded her a lot of Mercedes Lackey. I had to sit down.
What importance do you place on writing workshops? What workshops would you recommend to us?
I think workshops are a great way to hone your craft as a writer. Every writer has a different process, and we can learn a lot from each other. As a plotter I love Bob Mayer’s series, he makes a lot of sense to me. His mantra of one sentence, the pure essence of your story idea, that you can go back to if you get lost or start to drift, has saved me more than once!
ANYTHING by Mary Buckham. I took her Sexual Tension class and it’s phenomenal for romance writers. What was fun there is we dissected movies—when I took it we did Lethal Weapon 3 and Big Easy—and we discussed things like eye contact and “mirroring” which is incredibly helpful now.
What person would you like to thank for inspiring you in your writing aspirations? How did this person help you?
A former Writer’s Digest editor, Melanie Rigney. My friends Susan Engelbrecht & Joanne Yonker dragged me to the Green Lake Writer’s Conference, where I met Melanie Rigney, the first non-critique partner to read Duality. She was very supportive and recommended an agent to send it to. I really appreciated the plug as I was feeling very much a fish out of water. (My friends neglected to tell me Green Lake was a Christian writer’s conference and I write pagan high fantasy. I’ll bet I was a conversation piece for YEARS!) The agent passed but Melanie gave me my marching orders to “Get this thing out there” and I found a home w/Samhain later that year.
Melanie just followed me on Twitter. It was very surreal to re-establish contact and she DM commented “So glad to see the way your writing has taken off!” Very cool!
Do you play music when you write? If so, what kind? Or, do you have to have silence or background noise to set your writing muse free?
As mentioned earlier, I have entire SOUNDTRACKS!
I should’ve been more specific…
Do you read in a different genre than you write? If yes, why? If you read in the same genre that you write, do you feel that it influences your writing in any way?
I have always personally liked fantasy, so I still read a lot of it. I love Barbara Hambly’s THE LADIES OF MANDRIGYN and Elizabeth Vaughan’s WARPRIZE and Joy Nash’s THE GRAIL KING. LOVE Bianca D’Arc’s dragon series.
I DO read a lot of dark paranormal/urban fantasy: Angela Knight, Christine Feehan, Sherrilyn Kenyon, JR Ward and Pamela Palmer. I got to meet Sherrilyn Kenyon at a writer’s conference. Nice lady. Had the honor of coming in second to Pamela Palmer in a reader’s contest – nothing like coming in second to a writer you really admire.
I also read Suzanne Brockmann and Lori Foster. They do male POV/dialogue EXCEPTIONALLY well. Suzanne Brockmann was a judge in a writing contest when I first started out, and had some very encouraging words for a very green writer, back when I didn’t know anything! Lori Foster commented on a blog I did once. Made my day!
What is your process from idea to first draft?
I always start with a character. Usually a snippet of dialogue hits, and I try to picture the scene. Then it’s “how did they get there” and “where do they go from here.” I think a lot about what they want & how to thwart it, and what they need and how they find it. What’s the last thing they want to do—they do it. Why’s the last person they expect? They meet them. Duality/dichotomy rules.
I’m a total plotter—I have character descriptions, maps and a timeline. I use index cards, and arrange and rearrange until I have a working outline. Then I do a synopsis and break it into chapters and scenes. Only then am I ready to start writing. If I get stuck in a spot, I can write another scene, b/c the outline tells me how it all fits together. So I can write what I’m in the mood for—and I’m very seldom blocked.
Of course, occasionally a character will step up my time schedule. Cianan in Hedda’s Sword and Aryk in Riever’s Heart were particularly impatient heroes. I’d be getting to when they appear and BAM! They were there already. Like “Get ON with it already, lady!” So there’s a certain amount of minor tweaking involved.
Have you ever given assistance to a struggling new writer? Has another writer ever come to your aide? How?
I do a lot of three-chapter critiques for Savvy Authors, mostly to as-yet-unpublished authors. A fellow Samhain author liked my Six Senses workshop/blog series and now we’re talking about collaborating on a joint workshop in the future.
Suzanne Brockmann was extraordinarily kind when she read my (admittedly Godawful) “Second Chances.” I knew NOTHING about POV then, it was all over the place. (I had the DOG’S POV -- twice!) But she liked the emotional intensity (cop’s widow starting over) and she said I did Alistair’s dialogue really well (young child). I didn’t win, needless to say, but all I could think of was “Suzanne Brockmann likes my writing!” Parts of it, anyway.
I try to emulate that when I judge. I’m a TOUGH gatekeeper judge but I always temper the “work on” parts with the “Wow—this is amazing!” I had a lovely email from a contestant who HATED me b/c I was the swing vote that JUST kept her from finalling. But then she considered my comments, changed things—and finaled the NEXT time. She thanked me.
THAT’S when you know you did your job.
What do you consider your greatest accomplishments in your career so far?
Placing a copy of Duality into my grandmother’s hands. She first called me a writer when I was six years old and writing horse stories ala CW Anderson. She always said I could do it, and I loved being able to hear “I told you so” when it finally happened.
If you won the big lottery, what would you do with the money? Would give any of it to charity? If so, which one?
My favorite local charity is The Women’s Community, a shelter for battered women. They came to the forefront to me when we first moved here. My daughter was five at the time and the next door neighbor knocked his wife through the front door into the concrete planter on their porch right in front of Tami & me. They had a three-year-old son. Tami gave him her favorite stuffed bunny to hold while his daddy was hauled off in handcuffs and some nice women came to take her and her son to a safe haven. NOT something I ever thought I’d have to discuss with a five-year-old little girl.
I keep hoping for the day when such places shut down for lack of business. I wish people would not only be thankful for their blessings, but remember those who need help. Safety and dignity are things everyone deserves.
What is the best advice you want to give to a new writer?
Don’t give up. Keep learning. Keep polishing. Keep trying. The only guarantee of never succeeding is to never try. You have to keep at it. Critique groups and contests are a great way to get feedback.
If you could choose an animal for a mascot, what animal would it be? What do you admire about this animal? Do you feel you have qualities similar to this animal? If so, what are they?
I’m a mama bear. Bears are amazing. They’re very in tune with their environment, are adaptable, can live on almost anything and know the benefits of a nice long nap. They get along with everyone UNLESS you mess with them. Then look out. They are incredibly protective of their cubs—they’ll destroy anything that threatens their little ones.
I’m a LOT like that!
If money, education and fear factors were set aside, what three careers would you like to attempt other than writing?
I’m a certified vet tech. Would love to get back into that (but you can’t raise a family on THAT salary). Would love to be a full-fledged veterinarian.
Or a forest ranger.
Or study sharks. (I want to learn to scuba dive and go swimming w/sharks. Hubby thinks I’m NUTS.) I love sharks. They’re the perfect predator, and they have to worst rep in the animal kingdom. People love SNAKES more! *shudders*
If money, talent and fear were no object, what big adventure would you like to have?
Would love to fly around the world in a hot air balloon—see exotic places, meet interesting people. Except I’m scared of heights and suffer from motion sickness. But hot air balloons are so PRETTY!
What characteristics do you like to instill in your heroes? What characteristics do you feel are necessary for a good heroine?
I have to have HEROES with a strong moral compass and unbreakable sense of honor. They aren’t afraid to stand up for the little guy. They’re secure enough to let a heroine be herself, and flexible enough to acknowledge a female influence.
My heroines are all tomboys in some way, shape or form. They have strong ideas and aren’t afraid to voice them and act on them. I like a hint of vulnerability around the hero, but NO DOORMATS. They’re not afraid to try, to face the risk of failure. They learn from their mistakes.
If you had the power to change two things in the world, what would those two things be?
Safety and tolerance for all. This world is NUTS and it all stems from not being able see/tolerate another point of view.
If could have a super power for a day, what would it be? Why?
Empathic projection. I thought Deanna Troi in TNG was cool but what a frustrating power—to read emotions but not be able to influence them. I’d love to be able to diffuse conflict by letting the parties involved really wear each other’s skin for a moment and see where THEY’RE coming from.
I have a huge “justice meter.” I call it my Joan of Arc complex. But I hate bullies. I think if people could just feel each other’s emotions/motivations for a MOMENT instead of just me-me-me, a lot of conflict would just diffuse.
Like Sandra Bullock tearfully confessed in “Miss Congeniality”: “I really do want world peace.”