1. What inspired you to write the Dreamwielder Chronicles?
The initial concept actually came from a dream my mom had. I was visiting over Christmas and she told me she'd had this dream that she thought I should write into a story. I groaned inwardly a little since as a writer I always have people tell me ideas they think I should turn into a story, but it turned out my mom's concept was really cool. Her dream was more or less the opening scene in the book. Obviously, there was quite a bit of work involved in turning a dream snippet into a full novel, and so I drew upon quite a few other inspirations as well. Off the top of my head, I'd say those include my love for fantasy novels as a reader, and also several real world issues I wanted to explore, such as gender inequality and human-caused ecological problems.
2. What drew you to the fantasy genre? What appeals most to you about writing fantasy?
I was always an avid reader growing up, and fantasy was always my favorite genre. I guess the real world can seem disappointing at times, and fantasy has the ability to open a new world of wondrous possibilities. As an adult and an author now, I like how I can help readers tap into their imagination while at the same time have my characters deal with conflicts and issues that are relevant to our everyday lives.
3. As a male author, what inspired you to write about a female protagonist?
Well, one of the things I wanted to specifically combat was the old trope that women in fantasy novels have to play the damsel in distress role or otherwise serve as a steppingstone for the main, male, protagonist to reach their goal. On top of that, it never occurred to me, at not at first, that it might be strange for a male author to write a woman protagonist. So, yeah, I approached writing Makarria the same way I do any other character, by putting myself into her shoes and empathizing with her situation. Since writing book 1 in the series, a lot has been happening in the science fiction and fantasy world with things like Puppygate and the Hugo awards, where people are finally starting to see that that women, people of color, and numerous other groups of people continue to be underrepresented in the genre. The battles that have waged online as to what good sci-fi and fantasy should be have been ugly at times, but I thinks it's largely been a good thing. I, for one have learned a lot about my own blind-spots when it comes to things like stereotypes and damaging tropes in the genre, and I've made a big effort to keep educating myself. I can't do anything about the fact that I'm a white male, but I can definitely continue to work at getting better about representing diverse characters in my books. I think Dreamwielder holds up well as a novel with a strong cast of women characters, and I've been pushing myself to be even more inclusive in the subsequent novels. Readers will definitely see that in book 2, Souldrifter, and it'll be one of the main themes I explore in book 3, which I'm in the process of outlining.
4. How comfortable were you writing from a female perspective?
Honestly, it came pretty naturally to me. I think the hallmark of a good author is their ability to empathize with people, and I've had so many amazing women in my life, I didn't have to look far for models to draw upon when writing in the viewpoint of Makarraia, Taera, or even a highly flawed character like Roanna.
5. I found it unique that you incorporated a steampunk element in your story. How did you merge the two different genres to fit your world?
You know, it was just a natural melding of all the things that influence me as a writer. Fantasy is the genre I love to read and write in, but at the same time I'm very much concerned about the state of the world with global warming and how modern civilization is boxed in by an infrastructure and economy that's totally built around relying on fossil fuels. I worked for six years as an industrial hygienist, where I got to see how oil refineries and factories work, and I was even out on a barge doing air testing during the BP oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico, so it was important to me to explore the perils of technology and industry in Dreamwielder. That's not to say that I think technology is all bad, not by a long shot, but I wanted to bring to the forefront this arrogant view that humans can somehow bring nature to heal with technological progress.
6. How is Makarria going to mature in the next book?
Well, Souldrifter is already out, and in that book I think readers get to see Makarria going through a lot of the same struggles we all go through as we transition into adulthood and have to take on bigger responsibilities. Her troubles are just bigger than most because she's in a position of power. She finds herself doubted and second guessed because she's young, and a woman. There's a love interest that a lot of readers were hoping for after book 1, but that doesn't go as planned. And there's a loss of some of her ideals, as she discovers that things aren't always as black or white as we like to make them out to be.
7. What were the challenges of writing Dreamwielder?
For me, the biggest challenge is always making the time to write. I'm not a bestseller (not yet, at least!), so that means I have to work to make a living. While writing Dreamwielder, I was teaching. Now I make a living as a freelance writer and editor, but the challenge is the same. It's tough to balance a job, writing a book, and having a personal life, so it's just a matter of persistence and sacrificing the things I can live without like video games and watching too much TV.
8. The book features many different characters. How did you keep them all straight and did you have an outline for these before you started writing the book?
Yeah, I definitely outlined Dreamwielder before writing it. I'm not a crazy outliner like some authors I know, but I always at least figure out who my viewpoint characters are going to be early on, that way I have the flexibility to give the reader a cinematic reading experience where we can jump from place to place and see all the important events happening in the story. Natarios Rhodas, for example, is a character I created so that we could see what was happening with my two main antagonists, Wulfram and Emperor Guderian.
9. What message do you hope readers will take away from your novel?
Well, I hope that readers are entertained, first and foremost. Beyond that, if readers find some sort of inspiration in the struggles that Makarria, Caile, and Taera have to overcome, awesome. If the story makes readers question gender roles, or take a closer look at our relationship with nature in real life, double awesome.
10. Do you have a plan for how many books in this series that we may look forward to?
Oh yeah. As I mentioned, Souldrifter just came out this last year, and then I have one more book in the works to round out the series as a trilogy. I'm simultaneously writing another unrelated novel, too, so that means book 3 might take a little longer, but I'm hoping to have a complete manuscript for Dreamwielder 3, or whatever we decide to call it, sometime in 2017. Beyond that, I might write a couple of tie-in short stories, but I don't expect there to be more than 3 books total.
Dreamwielder is currently on sale for 99 cents till Sept 13th on Amazon!
About the Author:
Garrett Calcaterra is the author of the Dreamwielder Chronicles, Dreamrush, The Roads to Baldairn Motte, and Umbral Visions. He is a freelance editor at Shmoop.com and has taught creative writing at Chapman University and the Orange County School of Arts. He currently lives with his wife and two dogs. For more information, visit his website.