Author D. Wallace Peach infuses her speculative fiction with vivid prose and intriguing plots. Her twelve published books are divided between two four-book series and four standalone novels. Kari’s Reckoning (2017) is the fourth and final novel in her Rose Shield series, a storyline that explores flawed and compelling characters, a sentient landscape, and a magic system that allows for manipulating emotions. Learn more about Diana and her writing on her website/blog MythsOfTheMirror.com and her Amazon author page, and connect with her on Facebook, Twitter (@dwallacepeach), and Goodreads.
What was the initial spark for the Rose Shield series—a character, the setting, a what-if question?
For any of my books, my initial spark is usually something related to a magic system. I’m a fan of fantasy author Brandon Sanderson and enjoy the structure he brings to the magic in his books, including how he integrates his concepts into the characters, themes, and plot. From the magical inspiration, the rest gradually falls into place.
The magic system of the Rose Shield started with my experience as a counselor. I believe that our emotions drive us more than our thoughts and reason. When we interact with others, we’re influencing them emotionally—trying to make them smile, comply, love, take our side, leave us alone. For the Rose Shield, I took that concept a step further and asked: what if a group of people could influence others’ feelings through a special talent? And what would they do if there was someone who could stop them?
Among your cast of characters are influencers (magic wielders), warriors, assassins, rebels—and Catling, who has the ability to disrupt the power of the guild that rules her world through manipulating emotions. Were the characters fully formed when you began writing, or did they reveal themselves to you as the story unfolded?
I do tons of pre-writing preparation, including biographies on all my characters, even the secondary ones. I describe their childhoods, fears, dreams, challenges, goals, and secrets. Characters take further shape as the outline comes together. And, of course, when I start writing, more of their personalities emerge. On occasion, I have to edit their biographies because, despite all the planning, I still allow them to be themselves. That’s part of the fun.
Tell us about the main setting. Do you consider it to be a character in the books?
The Rose Shield takes place on a terraformed world, so it has Earthlike and alien elements. In this series, the planet is sentient, so it’s not only a character, but it causes all kinds of havoc. The world’s luminous rivers are its veins, and when humans start messing with the planet’s “blood”—the source of their unusual power—the planet straightens them out. Kari’s Reckoning, the last book in the series, is partly about the “setting” getting her way and putting humans in their place.
What was the most difficult aspect of world-building for this series?
Definitely keeping the magic system (the power to influence others’ emotions) logical and consistent. It’s a powerful skill, and I had to keep asking the question: why wouldn’t they just use their influence? There needed to be reasons and consequences in every instance for using it or deciding not to.
You released the four-novel Rose Shield collection within two months of publishing the first book. How did the series come together?
It took me two years to write the series. I wrote the entire outline for all four books, plotting them as one long story, before I started writing. That way the whole thing felt cohesive to me—all the forecasting was in place, characters had complete arcs, themes flowed from the beginning to the end, and I plugged up the plot holes. I structured each book with escalating challenges and ensured all the books worked together as one intensifying story that led to the final climax. The editing passes were bears, the grizzly kind. I wanted to release all four very close to each other so that readers who enjoyed the first one could pick up the next immediately. It made sense from a marketing standpoint, and it’s how I like to read. Basically, to release them together, I held up the first books while waiting for the last.
What are the hardest kinds of scenes for you to write, and how do you get over this hurdle?
I have two types of scenes that I find challenging. One is battle scenes because I hold my breath and have to type really fast! Ha ha. They’re so intense, people are fighting for their lives, so I can’t take a breather. I’m in this intense “zone” and have to see it through. I’ll occasionally find myself gasping because I’m not breathing!
The other scenes that are tough are sad scenes. I get emotional, all teary and snotty. My husband is used to it now, but when I started writing he’d stare at me with a worried look on his face. For me, writing is an emotional commitment. I take a deep breath and dive in because I want the reader to feel it. If I maintain a protective distance, I think the reader can sense it and won’t be as invested in the story.
What writing projects are you working on now?
I’m working on a two-book series right now: Soul Swallowers and Legacy of Souls. I’ll publish those together in May. The idea/magic for these books started with lots of musing about the nature and mystery of the soul. What if we could access the souls of the dead as a way to keep those we love near us? What if we were able to merge? We might acquire skills and knowledge, a more robust constitution, a happier temperament, greater wisdom. All positive, right? But time and again, human beings demonstrate a tendency to take things to the extreme without considering consequences. These books will have plenty of conflict, but I’m hoping that there will be some wisdom and heart in them as well.