D. E. Wyatt was born and lives in St. Louis, Missouri. Always a creative person, he first began writing as a child, and published his first work of fiction, the low-fantasy novella No Good Deed. . . in 2013. His first introduction to fantasy came with the Sierra adventure game, Hero's Quest, which also sparked his interest in fantasy as a literary genre. In addition to writing, in his spare time he studies Western Martial Arts, does 3D model work, and manages to squeeze in a Monday to Friday IT job. He is a life-long and loyal Cardinals fan who greatly enjoys teasing the Cubs fans.
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Interview with the Author:
When did you first realize that you wanted to be a writer/ a storyteller?
Strangely enough, it began with Sierra’s Quest for Glory series. QfG was a series of adventure games that began in the late 1980s with what was then called Hero’s Quest: So You Want To Be A Hero? (the name was later changed to QfG because of rights conflicts with the Hero Quest board game in some markets). Unlike Sierra’s other adventure games like King’s Quest and Police Quest, Quest for Glory had light RPG elements such as character classes, and stat building which played a role in some puzzles (like needing to move heavy objects required improving your Strength).
But there was also something about the story the designers told, and the world they created that fascinated me. That’s one thing that younger gamers take for granted: Today, story and world-building is becoming an increasingly important aspect of game development, and even action games have complex plots and character development. But in the late-1980s this was very rare because of the technology at the time. Console games were still cartridge-based, so there wasn’t much memory space for this. So while you had a few standouts like the early games in the Final Fantasy series, for the most part the story was largely relegated to background materials and had little impact within the game itself. It was the PC-based adventure and role playing games that you turned to for in-depth storytelling.
And Quest for Glory I was the first game that truly exposed me to fantasy storytelling. Some of my earliest writing was QfG fanfic, and it eventually translated into wanting to write an original fantasy myself.
What inspires you to write?
I’m a creative person by nature, so that plays a big role. I’ve always been creating something; in school I was in the band, I enjoyed drawing, building plastic models, and now I’ve moved on to some 3D modeling work.
So I get a lot of enjoyment out of the act of creation.
I also find inspiration in history and mythology. Elsabeth Soesten, the protagonist of my first two books, owes a bit to real-life 17th Century adventurer, swordswoman, and opera star (yes, really), Julie d’Aubigny. Another project I’ve recently started working on is inspired by Germanic mythology, and Anglo-Saxon culture. A third, much more ambitious project I’ve been working on for a couple years draws off many of those same sources.
How did you come up with the idea for your current story?
When I first started No Good Deed... the idea was to write a series of short stories, but they eventually grew beyond that. No Good Deed... ended up as a novella, and Bait And Switch became a full-length novel.
One of the things that was really important to me was that I wanted to build it around the depiction of Western Martial Arts. Thanks in no small part to a combination of Hollywood and Dungeons and Dragons, pop culture at large really has no idea how Western swordsmanship really works. Fortunately, groups like ARMA and HEMA have made great strides in reconstructing the Western martial heritage, and I really wanted to present this as accurately as I could.
I also wanted to play around a bit with the conventions of the fantasy genre. Elsabeth’s adventures are very grounded — the world is built around and inspired by mid-15th Century Western Europe, specifically set in an area based on the western parts of the Holy Roman Empire and eastern France — and more of a low heroic fantasy. No Good Deed... takes this as its starting point, and mixes in a bit of light political thriller/conspiracy.
Bait And Switch plays the heroic fantasy angle a bit straighter, with a plot built around a “mysterious orphan,” while lampshading and poking at the same tropes it’s using. So there’s a little bit of shade being thrown at it, but it’s not a satire or parody. So doing that meant writing a conventional heroic fantasy story and making use of those tropes, that I also put a little bit of a twist to. But I don’t want to give too much away.
Are there some stories tucked away in some drawer that was written before and never saw the light of the day?
Mostly some aborted stuff that eventually evolved into other projects, but I kept the parts I had written. I consider them useful exercises in getting to where I am now, but nothing I have any real desire to finish.
I also have another, bigger project that I’ve been working on for a few years that I do want to finish, but that’s going to take time.
Tell us about your writing process.
For the Elsabeth Soesten books it starts off with a basic genre I want to work with. For No Good Deed... it was political thriller. Bait And Switch as I mentioned was a bit of a straighter heroic fantasy. I recently finished the first draft of the next book in the series, Prize Play, which I knew I wanted to really introduce the Western Martial Arts elements that are sort of the primary arc of the series. As the title suggests, it’s built around a concept from the English fencing manuscripts called “Prize Playing,” where students would publicly test for rank (sort of the origin to the modern prize fight in boxing). I also have early planning for a fourth book, Gonnes of Navarre, which will play a bit with spy fiction, and a concept for a fifth that will lean towards Pulp/Noir.
What is your favorite scene in the book? Why?
My favorite parts to write in general are Elsabeth and her companion/co-conspirator, Brother Hieronymus, squabbling with each other. You’re dealing with two people who annoy and exasperate one another, but do genuinely care about each other, and are close enough they feel they can say pretty much anything to and about one another, and it will largely roll off their backs.
However the specific scene comes late in the book, and I can’t say too much about it other than that it turns the whole story thus far on its ear.
Did any of your characters inherit some of your own quirks?
Well, I study the longsword, and this is Elsabeth’s preferred weapon. However incorporating my knowledge into a book was sort of the whole point of the series in the first place, so...
Both Elsabeth and Hieronymus are rather sarcastic and don’t have much patience for idiots, which I can be in real life. Although Elsabeth doesn’t have much of a filter so I probably lean closer to the more diplomatic Hieronymus.
What is your most interesting writing quirk?
Mead is my writing fuel.
Do you read? Who are your favourite authors and how have they influenced your writing style?
Not nearly as much as I should. My favorite by far is Tolkien. Yeah, I know, I’m sure just about every fantasy writer says that, but that’s my answer and I’m sticking to it.
Probably the biggest influence he’s had on my writing is his use of detail, and the way he integrated his own passions into his work. His love of mythology, history, and language is a tangible part of The Lord of the Rings. I’m trying to do much the same with Western Martial Arts in the Elsabeth Soesten books.
What is the best piece of advice you have received, as a writer, till date?
What is the best piece of advice you would give to someone that wants to get into writing?
What would be the Dream Cast for you book if it was to be turned into a movie?
I’ve honestly not really thought much about it. Although Hieronymus was loosely inspired by the actor who played the drunken monk in Ladyhawke.
If you were to be stranded on the famous deserted island, what three things would you carry?
Scarlett Johansson, Emma Stone, and Anne Hathaway.
Seriously though, a working phone that gets good reception on the island, a comfortable chair, and a good book to keep myself occupied while I wait to be picked up. Forget the island, I need internet!
How do you spend your free time? Do you have a favorite place to go and unwind?
I think I’ve mentioned before I fence longsword. I also do a bit of 3D modeling work, and of course a gamer. I also read when I can, unfortunately that’s not as often as I would like. I love my St. Louis Cardinals and try to get to as many games as I can.
Can you share with us something off your bucket list?
Scarlett Johansson, Emma Stone, and Anne Hathaway...
To be at Busch Stadium and watch the Cardinals clinch a World Series championship at home.
Tell us three fun facts about yourself.
I’m an amateur mazer (mead-maker).
My two favorite restaurants in St. Louis are Ruiz and I ♥ Mr. Sushi (yes, the heart really IS part of the name).
I prefer Fox’s X-Men movies over the MCU. There. I said it!
What do you have in store next for your readers?
Look for a bit of a genre change and a figure from Elsabeth’s past in Prize Play, the next book in the Adventures of Elsabeth Soesten.
Is there anything else you’d like to share with your readers?
Hm, I tried to think of something but I’m drawing a blank. So in the immortal words of Jay Sherman, “Buy my book! Buy my book! Buy my book! Buy my—”
There are certain things in the world that are real and others which belong in the realm of minstrels' fancies. Elsabeth and Brother Hieronymus quickly find these lines becoming blurred when they accept a job to escort a youth named Maerten and his guardian to the Navarrese village of Checy. It is said that a powerful wizard dwells in the wilderness nearby, and Maerten is seeking him out in hopes that his magic can reveal the truth about his past. Despite her skepticism, Elsabeth finds herself unable to refuse the boy's request, and soon she and Hieronymus are drawn kicking and screaming into the tale of a destroyed kingdom and a long-lost heir. Along the way, Elsabeth struggles to balance her growing affection for the boy in her charge with the knowledge that they must part ways when they reach their destination, and the reality of the disappointment he will face when he learns that rumors and tall tales are seldom what they seem.
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