Helllllllo readers, hope you’re well and ready for an excellent but really LONG post so I won’t be here long. I’ve got a fantastic Q+A with Aleksandra Layland and her book Of Wisdom and Valor.
If you were to describe your book in only three sentences what would you say? (They don’t have to be short sentences!)
Sometimes shorter is best. Specifically, for “Of Wisdom and Valor:”
- The good guys win in the end, and you’ve never seen a war like Leofric plans one, but “luck” or “providence” can still have a critical role to play in who survives in the end.
- The love stories are touching, and there are several; love is truly the force that holds the universe together and it can transform even the dustiest of hearts into one of passion for life.
- In its small way, this novel is also a subtle salute to those who protect and defend us in a dangerous world, and to their families who love and support them while they do so.
Which character did you enjoy writing the most? Who would you say is your favourite?
This a hard one because I really enjoyed writing three characters more than any others: the heroine, Keridwen: the hero, Leofric; and Leofric’s friend and lieutenant, Wulfgar. Since Keridwen and Leofric are no surprise (if an author doesn’t enjoy writing about their hero and heroine, they need to replace them!) and are impressive as the main characters, let me address Wulfgar. He surprised me the most because the more I wrote about him, the more his role in the story increased and the more I liked him. Although Kimbria is not in our time, and is a world not of our own, I see Wulfgar in my head as somewhat of a tall, reddish-haired (close-cropped on the head, and only short growth on the face), man in his early forties who can be absolutely uplifting with his good humor, joking, and teasing. He’s charming and very approachable, yet you want to get out of his way if he loses his temper. The good news is, his temper is the quick kind… it may be quick on, but it’s always quick off, and he’s loved by the men-at-arms who serve under him for all he can break into a swearing session if something “stupid” or irritating happens.
Did you learn anything from writing your book and if so what was it?
I learned a lot of technical things. Although the story isn’t set here on our own Earth, I used our experiences and civilizational developments in building the world in which Kimbria is located. The indigenous people, the Kimbrii, are a sort of blend between medieval Vikings in appearance and early age Polynesians in culture, such as wearing Viking-inspired dress, dancing and chanting in ancient Hawaiian-inspired movements, and originally skilled in hand-to-hand combat inspired by Maori greenstone weaponry. When they become a horse people, I used the native American, European, and Asian horse cultures as models for their mounted archery. (These cultural differences are spelled out in the first book in the trilogy, Ansgar: The Struggle of a People. The Triumph of the Heart.)
I should add that something else I’ve learned much more about while writing the book is my English heritage. I knew my mother’s paternal grandparents were English, but I didn’t know where from or any other details until I worked on our family genealogy after I retired. To honor those roots, which come from northern England, I incorporated my mother’s maiden name of “Layland” into my pen name; and adopted place names and even the name of the indigenous people, the Kimbrii, from the counties and peoples where my English ancestors lived. (If you’re curious, “Aleksandra” is a nod to my father’s Polish roots.) In the bigger picture, I learned how long it takes me to write a book. I type with two fingers! The idea for the love story of Keridwen and Leofric came to me in my twenties, in dreams. I’ve only been able to finally write it in my sixties, as well as to add to it the rest of the other books which fill out the Windflower Saga trilogy and book series.
Is there a message in your novel that you wanted your readers to grasp?
Very much so. Each of the novels in the trilogy as well as the three related novellas that I’ve completed so far, have a specific theme. “Of Wisdom and Valor” is very much focused on the struggle between good and evil, both within an individual and within a society, as it expressed in the forces that contribute to war and peace. The individual struggle is personified in the character of Gethin, or Lord Gethin as he became. A sort of “con man on steroids,” one to whom the lives of others means nothing. This individual struggle is captured in the phrase, “Every child can become the light of the world, or its darkness.” On the societal level, the struggle is characterized by corruption in all levels of society, from the monarchy, the religious hierarchy, and down.
The theme is that corruption in society should be fought, not necessarily by war, although this situation came down to it, but by the commitment and involvement of citizens to demand and bring about good governance, and to hold public officials, religious leaders, and their fellow citizens accountable. Overall, the Windflower Saga is meant to be uplifting in spirit, even though it deals with some very harsh realities of life.
What authors do you like to read? What book or books have had a strong influence on you or your writing?
My mother took me to the library as a small child and I learned to love to read. Both of my parents, though they had only a high school (that the American term) education, loved to read. My dad, who was a brick and stone masonry contractor, use to say that he graduated from the University of National Geographic magazine. And the hardest decision my mom had to make the few times we moved from one part of the US to another, was leaving books behind because there wasn’t room in the moving truck to take them. I use to go to the library as a child, as soon as I was old enough to walk there on my own, and rove the shelves, taking an armload home and bringing an armload back, every two or three weeks. I read all sorts of things, both fiction and non-fiction, but I really enjoyed history and biography a lot.
What are you writing next? Is there a second book on the way?
Of Wisdom and Valor is the second book in the Windflower Saga trilogy (the other two are Ansgar and Far Haven), which I wrote last year, along with three novellas (The Feathered Crown, Far Endeavor, and Bind Not the Heart) that relate to characters in the trilogy. I also just finished two small picture books for kids (Tiyo, the Dog Who Saved Ansgar and Bright Star, A Pony of the Kimbrii) and a short “chapter book” (Keri and Kalina) for young readers. I’m currently working on a “middle grade” novel called Golden Skye of Ansgar, which actually tells something more of the lives of Leofric and Keridwen, when the last of their children is born and they are about to abdicate from the throne as joint monarchs after serving the people of Kimbria for twenty years. Two novellas for young adults and three other novellas are on my plate. They will complete the Windflower Saga book series.
Finally, where can my readers find out more about you and your writing?
I have an author’s page on Amazon. After I finish the novels and novellas in the series, I hope to prepare an “illustrated companion and author’s commentary” in which I can tell the story of what inspired the series, things about the characters that were cut out during editing, etc. The questions I’ve often wished I could ask an author who was no longer with us.
Audio Excerpt from the novel “Of Wisdom and Valor”