Monday, September 14, 2015

Interview: The Sleeping King by Cindy Dees

The Sleeping King
by Cindy Dees and Bill Flippin
Release Date: September 8th 2015
2015 Tor Books
Hardcover Edition; 496 Pages
ISBN: 978-0765335142
Genre: Fiction / Fantasy

The Sleeping King is the start of a new fantasy series by New York Times and USA Today bestselling author, Cindy Dees.

Dees has won a Golden Heart Award, two RITAs for Category Suspense and Adventure and has also twice snared RT's Series Romantic Suspense of the Year. She is a great storyteller, and the adventures in her more than fifty novels are often inspired by her own life. Dees is an Air Force vet-the youngest female pilot in Air Force history-and fought in the first Gulf War. She's had amazing adventures, and she's used her experiences to tell some kickass stories.

But as much as she loves romances, Cindy's other passion has been fantasy gaming. For almost twenty years she's been involved with Dragon Crest, one of the original live action role-playing games. She's the story content creator on the game, and wanted to do an epic fantasy based on it, with the blessing and input of Dragon Crest founder Bill Flippin.

The Sleeping King is the first in an epic fantasy series, featuring the best of the genre: near immortal imperial overlords, a prophecy of a sleeping elven king who's said to be the savior of the races . . . and two young people who are set on a path to save the day.

Interview with Cindy Dees

1)    To start off, can you tell me a little bit about yourself?  How did you become interested in writing?

First, thanks for inviting me to curl up by your virtual fireplace. Please join me in having a cup of virtual hot chocolate…

      Okay, the short version of my life story.  Grew up on a horse farm in Michigan. Dropped out of high school at 15 to get a degree in Russian and East European Studies at the University of Michigan. Pilot in the Air Force (VIP Airlift at Andrews Air Force Base followed by C-5’s, which are REALLY big cargo airplanes). Part-time spy. Left Air Force, moved to Texas. Started writing. 50 books published and a bunch of awards for military romance and thrillers. Long-time live-action gamer. Lost mind and started writing epic fantasy.

The story of how I started writing is fairly well known. My mother bet me a dollar I couldn’t write a publishable book. I went home, wrote my first book and was hooked. What most people don’t know is that I had to wait ten years to publish that book. My security clearances when I made the bet would not allow me to publish anything. I had to get out of the military and then wait seven years for my security clearances to expire before I could submit the book to a publisher and subsequently win the bet. Hardest dollar I ever earned!

2)    Can you tell us a little about your novel, The Sleeping King? What is it like to create your own world?

The Sleeping King is old school epic fantasy—big, sprawling, and complex—it’s being compared to Tolkien and Jordan in scope. Hopefully, we bring modern style and pacing to it that make it a fast, fun read.

The story itself is ultimately about hope. An evil, omnipotent empire has all but crushed any memory of freedom, and only a few brave (likely foolish) heroes dare to oppose it. For differing reasons, two young people go in search of a legendary sleeping king who, when woken, is prophesied to save them all and restore freedom throughout the land.

A trend in fantasy literature today seems to be fairly grim and gritty, the whole, “life sucks and then you die” take on imaginary worlds. Bill and I choose to take a more optimistic view that common people can achieve great deeds if they strive greatly. Good may not triumph completely over evil, but with heroism and hard work, the good guys can make a space for happiness and peace to exist until the next generation of heroes is called to defend freedom.

As for what it’s like to create a world, that has been a collaborative effort for the past twenty-five years, led by the brilliant Bill Flippin, whose brainchild the Dragon Crest universe is. Many hundreds of smart, creative players in the live-action game have added to it over the years. They helped it come alive and gave it heart and soul. I feel like my job is more about archiving the collective effort than it is about making stuff up in my one tiny brain.

3)    What inspired you to write this series? How much research was involved in the writing?

I started playing Dragon Crest about twenty years ago, and have spent the last nineteen or so secretly plotting books about it in my head. The sheer brilliance and scope of the world was my inspiration. I cannot begin to calculate the number of hours I’ve spent playing, plotting as a staff member, picking Bill’s brains, and making stuff up. Thousands. Tens of thousands, maybe.

If you took a visionary designer, a couple dozen really great game masters, and hundreds of gamers, asked them all to spend two decades cooking up the coolest, most interesting universe they could and populating it with the most diverse group of characters they could imagine, you might begin to approximate the work that went into building the Dragon Crest universe. It’s BIG.

4)    What was your greatest challenge while writing this novel? Where do you see this series going in the future?

LOL. The biggest challenge was limiting the story we tried to tell in a single book. The good news is we have many, many more books to write. Maybe forty or fifty books from now, I’ll feel like we’ve finally done the world justice.

We actually envision two threads emerging in the series in the relatively near future. One is the epic novels that Bill and I refer to as the door-stoppers. We’ve already got five more of those planned out, with more in the offing. The second thread we see unfolding is a group of shorter books that tell some of the interesting side stories happening in the world and elaborating on the history of the Dragon Crest universe. I expect many of these will be based on quests the game players go on.

5)    In this series, we have been introduced to some very interesting and intriguing characters. Who was the most fun to write about?

The award for most fun to write has to go to His Resplendent Majesty, Maximillian the Third, Emperor of the Eternal Empire of Koth. (He likes his full title to be used in formal situations like an introduction on a blog.) He’s an incredibly complicated being, and we never, ever write from his point of view in the stories. He remains inscrutable to us mere mortals. We could have painted him as a vile, horrid monster who oozes evil, but that would have been too easy. He actually has reasonable motives, at least in his mind, and rises above the petty evil of many of his courtiers. He’s easy to hate, but he also challenges us to question whether or not some evils are necessary.

6)    What are 3 things that are “must haves” when you write? Do you have any writing rituals?

Obviously, my Mac Air. I love, love, love it. Have told hubby to get rid of all my other computers and buy me another one of these when this one is worked to death. Beyond that, a comfy chair and a place to prop up my feet, and music. It has to be instrumental or else I get distracted and sing along (loudly and badly, my family informs me). But music helps me set the mood in each scene. Everyone in the house knows when I’m writing a battle scene because I blast epic movie scores. If it could be raining outside and a candle be lit in the room, those are bonuses!

7)    What advice would you give to an aspiring writer?

ABC. Apply Butt to Chair. The only way to become a writer is to write. Of course, there’s value in reading how-to books, attending classes or workshops, and re-learning all that pesky grammar we ram-dumped as soon as we finished high school English. But at the end of the day, it’s about putting words on paper and crafting stories. That’s how a writer really learns their craft.

A corollary to that is learning how to give oneself permission to write crap. We all write badly before we write well. Even now, fifty books into my career, I often write a bad scene and then revise or re-write it later into a great scene. It has been one of the hardest parts of working with a collaborator for me. I have to show Bill the crappy versions of scenes, and we work together to make them shine.

8)    Can you share with us any projects you are currently working on or plans for the future? What can fans expect next from you?  Are there other genres in which you are interested but haven’t yet explored?

Let me take those in reverse order…

a)     I think I’ve explored plenty of genres already!

b)    Fans can expect a whole bunch more Dragon Crest novels from us. Also, we’re hard at work on a set of tabletop game rules for Dragon Crest and a simplified set of live-action gaming rules.

c)     Bill and I are just finishing up the last tweaks on the second Dragon Crest novel, THE DREAMING HUNT, which comes out next year. We’re deep into plotting the third book already. The big problem he and I are having, though, is we’re tempted to write some of the side stories that are really cool but just can’t be squeezed into the epic novels. We may have to play with a few of those as a mental break before we dive seriously into the third book. Or, Hermione Grainger will let me borrow her time turner, and I’ll find a way to write both!

9)    Favourite authors? Role models?

Frank Herbert, Robert Ludlum, Jacqueline Carey, Isaac Asimov, Terry Goodkind…how long did you say this blog could be? I can keep going for a while with great authors.

I have to say that Nora Roberts is a personal role model to me. She works so hard, consistently turns out great books, and uses her position in the publishing industry to fight the battles that really need to be fought. Can’t say enough about how much I admire her.

10) What do you like to do when you are not writing?  What is your ultimate luxury?

I belly dance. I also enjoy gardening, yoga, and hanging out with friends. The ultimate luxury for me is sitting on a cruise ship, letting someone else do all the cooking and cleaning while I lose myself in a fantastic book and watch the ocean go by. Which is kind of odd for a huge extrovert like me, now that I think about it. I don’t stop life to recharge often, but when I do, I want to completely get away.

11) Is there anything else you would like to share with your readers?

I hereby invite all of you to come join us in the Dragon Crest universe! Most of the characters in the books are based on real people who’ve created characters, gone on epic quests, and changed the world. You can do the exact same thing. The website is, not surprisingly, .  We’re finalizing a series of online events and tabletop modules there that anyone can participate in  (if running around in the woods chasing monsters isn’t your thing) that will significantly influence the direction in which the world evolves. I’m excited to see where the players take the story and where they ultimately take the books. It’s as big an adventure for us as it is for our readers and fans!



  1. You've got quite the accomplished background, Cindy! Good answers!

  2. You've got quite the accomplished background, Cindy! Good answers!

  3. LOL. When I was about nine years old, one summer, I told my mom I was bored. She told me that was entirely my fault and if I was EVER bored in life it would be my fault. I took her to fault and have made a point of never being bored since!

    1. I had a very similar experience with my mom. I now blame her for the fact I read four books at a time. LOL