If you’ve ever participated in Query Kombat, Nightmare on Query Street, New Agent, PitchSlam or Sun versus Snow, you know who Michelle Hauck is. Through her query contests, she’s helped dozens of writers connect with agents, and her blog (found here) has tons of success stories that inspire writers to keep going even when the query trenches feel impossible to climb out of. Michelle lives in the bustling metropolis of northern Indiana with her hubby and two teenagers. Besides working with special needs children by day, she writes all sorts of fantasy, giving her imagination free range. Her epic fantasy, Kindar’s Cure, was published by Divertir Publishing. She’s represented by Sarah Negovetich of Corvisiero Literary.
Book Blurb for Kindar’s Cure: Princess Kindar of Anost dreams of playing the hero and succeeding to her mother’s throne. But dreams are for fools. Reality involves two healthy sisters and a wasting disease of suffocating cough that’s killing her by inches. When her elder sister is murdered, the blame falls on Kindar, putting her head on the chopping block. No one who survives eighteen years of choke lung lacks determination. A novice wizard, Maladonis Bin, approaches with a vision—a cure in a barren land of volcanic fumes. As choices go, a charming bootlicker that trips over his own feet isn’t the best option, but beggars can’t be choosers. Kindar escapes with Mal and several longtime attendants only to have her eyes opened that her country faces dark times. Her mother’s decision to close the prosperous mines spurs poverty and joblessness, inciting rebellion and opening Anost to foreign invasion. As Mal urges her toward a cure that will prove his visions, suddenly, an ally turns traitor, delivering Kindar to a rebel army, who have their own plans for a sickly princess. With the killer poised to strike again, the rebels bearing down, and the country falling apart, she must weigh her personal hunt for a cure against saving her people.
Hi Michelle, thank you so much for taking the time to chat with me about your novel! Kindar’s a middle child. Where are you in the sibling order?
M: I’m actually the eldest of two sisters, so I get to be first to go through anything. I guess in Kindar’s world, I’d be the victim struck down early in the book. 🙂
Besides being stuck in the middle, we learn Kindar is suffering from a life-threatening illness, choke lung. To make matters worse, she’s blamed for the death of her sister (talk about a one-two punch). Can you tell us a little bit about how you came up with the idea for this story and what kind of research it involved?
A bad cough gave me the idea for Kindar herself. And I’m a complete pantster. The rest basically came out of thin air as I was writing. I never have an ending in mind or do any outlining. I start with a first chapters and a direction and go from there. As for research, I do remember checking out castles online for the terms to use. I also checked out poisons and things about medieval life, such as their idea of medicine. I’m sure my search engine must think I’m up to something dark.
Is Kindar’s Cure the first of a series?
I always intended Kindar to be part of a series, but haven’t found time to write the second book yet. It’s why some things are left open-ended (like the rebels). It’s a project I hope to get back to in the future.
What was the hardest part about writing this book?
Action scenes have always been difficult for me. Dialogue flows easily and so does most description and character thought, but when you get down to detailing every movement to picture out a fight scene, that’s where I really have to work.
Epic fantasy requires an immense amount of world building. Do you create a storyboard or draw pictures to help you visualize the world?
I’m afraid I’m no artist and a whole lot of lazy. But many of the sites I use in the book are real places I’ve visited. The steamy setting of hot springs where Kindar goes to seek her cure is Yellowstone. The castle I describe is Leeds Castle one of the most beautiful spots I’ve got to travel to. A smaller description of wind blowing grass up a hill is the roads of South Dakota.
One of your readers said your book reminded them of Robert Jordan’s Wheel of Time series. How would you describe your writing style?
They did! (says the girl who doesn’t look at reviews) That’s awesomesauce because Robert Jordan and Brandon Sanderson are my heroes! I model my writing on their style of big, giant-sized epic fantasy stories. Lots of characters. Lots of settings. A big overall theme. Just a little romance. Like Game of Thrones without all the sex scenes but still with chopping off of heads is how my agent describes it.
What other genres do you write, and what are you working on right now?
I only write fantasy, though I skip around in age categories. I have a middle grade and several young adult stories finished. I would consider Kindar and my latest WIP to be in the adult range or upper young adult. And my middle grade is set in the real world so it’s more urban than epic fantasy.
How long does it take you to finish a draft?
Ah, the sticky question. I’m a little ashamed to say I’m a very slow writer. It’s so cool to dash out a draft in a few weeks. It took ten months for Kindar and the last book I finished took eleven. Then only a couple of months of revision with my critique partners. One good thing about taking so long is that my first draft is pretty much the finished product.
Do you have any strange writing habits (like wearing your clothes backwards or using sock puppets to act out scenes)?
Um, noooo… I don’t think so anyway. I always have to have music playing in the background. My family is utterly sick of my playlist because I play the same songs over and over. Hey, it’s what always gets me back to the right voice. I prefer to write in the morning. I like to envision a chapter in my head before starting it. I sit at the kitchen table and I can’t write in public. That’s pretty much it.
What are you reading right now?
I go through one or two books a week. Right at this moment, I’m reading a book for an agent I intern with. And I can’t say anything more about that.
Do you create a playlist? If so, what songs go with Kindar’s Cure?
I listened to a lot of Gavin DeGraw and Nickelback, some Theory of a Dead Man. It seems that Chad Kroeger’s voice matches my writing style. Though as I said before my family wants to kill me over this.
If you didn’t enjoy writing, what would you do for a living?
I would want to be a repeat champion on Jeopardy. Complete shyness will keep that from ever happening. J Or maybe something where they pay me to read!
And now some rapid fire questions: How do you take your coffee?
I don’t drink coffee. Make of that what you will.
What’s the best book you’ve ever read?
That’s too hard. I love so many. Gone with the Wind and The Three Musketeers stick out as my all-time favorites.
What author inspires you the most?
Food that should be banned from grocery stores:
Peas. Can’t stand the smell.
Food you can’t live without:
The word that describes you best:
Weird. Or so my kids always say.
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“Princess Kindar, Her Majesty will see you,” a chamberlain barked from her mother’s bedchamber.
Kindar strode forward alone. As the door closed after her, she sank into a deep curtsey before moving forward to the center of the room. Empress Eugenie Stefanous sat before a large mirror, clothed in her undergarments. Seventeen when her first daughter was born, the empress was still young, her belly and hips pleasantly rounded. Her auburn hair fell in a thick mass of long curls around a delicately painted face.
After bearing three daughters, Empress Eugenie had retired her husband, not wanting to ruin the fortunate omen with another child. Now she confined herself to her own amores. The empress’ two current favorites lounged on a chaise. Young enough to be her children, they sported more paint than their mistress. Kindar pushed down irritation that these wretches sat while she must stand.
Behind her mother, the First Minister Hayden wore a military uniform which had never seen a day’s fight. He held a sheaf of papers from which to report his latest information. Information his extensive team of spies provided. “… and the disposition of the Cushwair rebels remains unchanged.” Minister Hayden cut off as he saw her, stooping to whisper into her mother’s ear.
Eugenie lifted her eyes to Kindar’s reflection in the mirror. “I hear your humours are clean this morning, Daughter.”
Suddenly, answers clicked in Kindar’s mind. The physician had been suggested by Minister Hayden as punishment for failing to show him favor. Kindar narrowed her eyes. From such men as this, her mother sought the advice that would dictate her children’s futures. But this meant her mother might be well-disposed toward her. Her optimism grew to a painful intensity. After all, Eugenie needed all three daughters to give weight to the omen. Kindar curtseyed again. “Yes, Majesty.”
“Strange.” The empress turned her eyes from contemplating her own face in the mirror to favor her daughter with a glance. “Your humours are seldom clean.”
“It is more auspicious for the wedding, Majesty, if I’m not bled.”
“Perhaps.” Empress Eugenie set down a thick rope of diamonds and picked up a necklace of pearls. “That gown doesn’t suit you. You look like a scrawny washed-out rabbit. Why did I ever choose it? Never mind, I suppose it will do for you. I have made a decision about your future.” The minister bowed, looking suitably impressed.
“Yes, Majesty.” Kindar waited with a fluttering heart. The throne could not belong to an unmarried woman; the law made that clear. In addition to making her a legitimate heir, a betrothal would give her certain freedoms, such as the end of these painful morning visits. Even if she did not care for the peer chosen by her mother, a betrothal would give her status. She would be higher than Ceria, instead of equal, and able to overrule her actions.