Friday, January 22, 2016

Interview with Annette Oppenlander, ESCAPE FROM THE PAST, THE DUKE'S WRATH

Can you give us a brief overview of your latest book? Is it part of a series?
In “Escape from the Past: The Duke’s Wrath” Max Anderson, a nerdy gamer tries out an experimental computer game and time-travels to medieval Germany where he gets drawn into a feud between three lords while trying to find a way home. This is book one in a trilogy, based on the history of Castle Hanstein in Thuringia, Germany and its charismatic knight, Werner von Hanstein.

In book two “Escape from the Past: The Kid,” out in February 2016, Max tries to return to medieval Germany because of ‘unfinished business,’ but accidentally lands in the Wild West of 1881 New Mexico where he meets Billy the Kid and gets involved with an ancient Warm Springs Apache.

Did you try the traditional route to publishing, i.e. querying agents/publishers?
Yes, I signed with a literary agent in 2013 and let him go after a year. I found him through a cold query but unfortunately things didn’t work out. Since he had already shopped my manuscript, I chose to find a publisher on my own. I was lucky to find Lodestone Books and they are publishing all three books in the trilogy. For my next project I will again return to querying agents.

How long before you got your offer of representation/your first contract? Was it for your first novel?
I finished my first novel and a dozen revisions in 2010—the book is still unpublished. I received my first contract offer for “Escape from the Past” in 2014. I did, however, sign with a literary agent in 2013 and after a year of sparse communication and several other issues decided to cancel the contract.

If you used a graphic designer/publisher’s designer, how involved were you during the creative process for your cover?
My first novel, “A Different Truth” was published in partnership with Grey Wolfe Publishing. I was able to chose my own designer who created this amazing cover from scratch. I was lucky to get him to help me. The “Escape from the Past” trilogy is published through Lodestone Books in the U.K. and I was able to suggest cover art, but the designer ultimately choses what he wants to work with.

The cover of “Escape from the Past: The Duke’s Wrath” was created from an original drawing of Castle Hanstein in 1450.

Do you belong to a critique group? Have they helped improve your writing?
I’ve been part of a critique group for seven years. We meet every two weeks and I’ve only missed when I was out of town. I can’t begin to tell you how much I’ve learned from my writer friends. In the beginning I learned things like formatting, grammar and punctuation. Over time, my focus changed. Nowadays, I mostly get feedback on inconsistencies with plot or dialogue.
My groups – I belong to two – have definitely helped me a lot. However, not all groups are created equal and there can be problems including personality conflicts, not following proper critique guidelines, fellow writers being much better or much worse. Sometimes a writer considers him/herself an expert and influences your development, even your voice negatively. So, it’s important to find a group with likeminded individuals who are at varying levels of craft, understand the genre you write and are genuinely interested in supporting each other.

What is your writing process? Do you listen to music or do you like silence?
I like quiet so I don’t listen to music. I sit in my office with the door closed because I find noise of any kind distracting. I typically write in the morning, especially when I’m working on a first draft. This first creation is always the hardest, taking the most brainpower. Sometimes I only write a page, sometimes it’s ten.

I struggle most with first chapters because so much is set up in it. I’ve learned to just ‘slop’ it down initially without the editor sitting on my shoulder whispering criticism.

Do you outline your story or just go where your muse takes you?
I’m a pantser and have only a lose idea where the story goes. I find if I let my mind run, I come up with new characters, subplots and generally am freer to create than if I outline.

Do you find it difficult to juggle your time between marketing your current book and writing your next book?
With the exception of a few bestselling authors and no matter how a work is published, most authors in todays’ environment must market their books and themselves. I struggle finding a good balance between writing and marketing. There are infinite possibilities to market, but until one has done this for a few years, it’s difficult to tell what works best. At the same time I have stories nudging me and I’ve committed to creating a first draft this spring.

I’m trying to juggle both jobs by writing every morning because I’m freshest and doing marketing in the afternoon. Ask me again in a year and I’ll tell you how well this is working.

Besides writing, do you have any other passions?
I’m a travel nut and thanks to my husband’s retirement we have time to explore new places. We love Europe and spend a month there every year. A few days are always reserved bicycling along a river in Germany. They have amazing infrastructure and hundreds of thousands of miles of dedicated bike trails.

I also discovered my passion for yoga. Since I sit so much my back acts up and yoga gives me that outlet to get my body back into shape.

I don’t know if you can call my old dog, Mocha, a passion, but I’m devoted to her. We walk every day, rain or shine and we’re roommates sharing my office.

What’s next for you?
I envision being a lifelong author. I love the process of writing, editing and researching. I love looking for new ideas and creating exciting stories. Book two in the trilogy, “Escape from the Past: The Kid” will be released in February 2016 and I just completed the third and last book. My next project will be about two teens surviving WWII in Germany. It’s sort of a love story despite the odds. I’m also still working on a story about a farm boy and his slave friend who are torn apart by the American Civil War.

Thank you so much for hosting me!


When fifteen-year old nerd and gamer Max Anderson thinks he’s sneaking a preview of an unpublished video game, he doesn’t realize that 1) He’s been secretly chosen as a beta, an experimental test player. 2) He’s playing the ultimate history game, transporting him into the actual past: anywhere and anytime. And 3) Survival is optional: To return home he must decipher the game’s rules and complete its missions—if he lives long enough. To fail means to stay in the past—forever.

Now Max is trapped in medieval Germany, unprepared and clueless. It is 1471 and he quickly learns that being an outcast may cost him his head. Especially after rescuing a beautiful peasant girl from a deadly infection and thus provoking sinister wannabe duke Ott. Overnight he is dragged into a hornet’s nest of feuding lords who will stop at nothing to bring down the conjuring stranger in their midst.

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AUTHOR Bio and Links:

Annette Oppenlander writes historical fiction for young adults. When she isn’t in front of her computer, she loves indulging her dog, Mocha, and traveling around the U.S. and Europe to discover amazing histories.
“Nearly every place holds some kind of secret, something that makes history come alive. When we scrutinize people and places closely, history is no longer a number, it turns into a story.”

Social Media Links:

Twitter: @aoppenlander

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