I recently became acquainted with the work of Dianne Lynn Gardner, author of a YA/middle-grade adventure fantasy saga titled Ian’s Realm. The three books in the series include: Deception Peak, TheDragon Shield, and the soon to be released Rubies and Robbers. The stories chronicle the coming of age of a boy, Ian Wilson, who follows his father through a portal into an alternate world where he is kidnapped by a tribe of dragon worshippers.
What amazes me about Dianne, is that besides being an imaginative writer, she’s also a fantastic artist. She created the illustrations for all of her books, including the cover art. In a recent communication with her regarding the work on her series, Dianne said, ”My research is extensive, including sailing on a tall ship, walking a mile into a lava tube and constructing a yurt, all of which I talk about with photos, videos and narrative on my blog.” Dianne's blog is presented as a scrapbook, a visual journey into the mind of a writer and artist. The interactive elements
Dianne lives and works in the Pacific Northwest. Among her other artistic pursuits, she served as a portrait painter for the Washington Renaissance Fantasy Fair for several years. For that gig she was required to produce quality oil paintings in just twenty minutes. Some people thrive on working under pressure, but that is just amazing!
More recently Dianne has taken on a fund-raising project through Kickstarter, a popular website that allows creative entities to raise the necessary funds to see their projects through to completion. In the interview below, Dianne talks about her books, her art, and how readers can become partners in her own creative saga through Kickstarter.
Interview with Dianne Lynn Gardner
MCW: I understand you did the illustrations for your Ian's Realm Saga books, including the covers. Which came first, the images or the words?
DIANNE: Normally, now, I write first and then paint the illustrations for my books. But before I started writing the Ian’s Realm series I began painting the dragon. I knew I was going to write a fantasy book and I had wanted to paint a dragon for years. I guess I needed an excuse to begin. Once the dragon took form the story came alive in my mind. From then on I wore a footpath from my house to my studio painting and writing all in the same day.
MCW: Why dragons? And what do they represent in your books?
DIANNE: There’s only one dragon in the Ian’s Realm story. He is somewhat iconic, representing an all-powerful evil that has mankind confused. However, if you read the short story Meneka, you’ll discover where this dragon came from and why there are dragon worshipers in the Realm. Oftentimes the real evil isn’t what’s outside of us, but rather what is inside.
MCW: What age kids are drawn to your books and what kinds of reactions are you getting from them about your stories?
DIANNE: I targeted my books for boys 9 to 14 but I’m discovering that my readers range from ages 9 to 90. Just as many adults are reading them and enjoying them as the youngsters. What I really love is the reaction that the boys are having. “Awesome” “Better than Harry Potter” “When’s the third book coming out?” are quotes from some of my young readers. It’s thrilling to hear that boys who don’t normally read are staying glued to my book until they finish it.
MCW: Have you illustrated anything other than your own books? Or would you like to?
DIANNE: I’ve been an artist ever since I was young. I primarily paint portraits and have done many commissioned pieces that are in collections all over the world including J.R.R. Tolkein’s grandsons, the former owner of the WA Renaissance Fantasy Faire and others. I used to be the resident artist at the Faire in Gig Harbor. I also paint with Plein Air Washington, have been a member of several organizations such as Oil Painters of America, The Portrait Society of America and several local groups.
MCW: How did you begin/learn to do the kind of art that you do?
DIANNE: I started with sculpture when I was young, studied art in college and have studied under several master painters such as Internationally known plein air painter Ned Mueller, Master Sculptor John Henry Waddell, and Nationally known official portrait artist Michelle Rushworth and others.
MCW: Do you have other books in the planning stages? What's next for you?
DIANNE: I’m currently working on Cassandra’s Castle, a sequel to the Ian’s Realm Trilogy, which will be published after Rubies and Robbers. It’s a historical fantasy that takes place in the Realm with a little different flavor than the other three books. The main character is Ian’s daughter, and she stumbles into the same world her father did but in a different location and finds herself wrapped up in a political uprising. The story was inspired by the Portuguese revolution of 1908 and by the compelling character of Manuel II, the last king of Portugal. It’s a little bit of a soft-love romance.
MCW: Explain how the Kickstarter promotion works and why people might want to take part in it.
DIANNE: There is a cutting edge crowd funding movement going on right now that has sparked the formation of several very successful entities such as Kickstarter, Indiegogo and several other websites. The idea behind crowd funding is to introduce a project and ask for funding, offering the donors certain levels of ‘perks’ for their donations. The artist or author sets a goal, in my case $3000 and if the project is funded, the pledges are collected and everyone gets their perks. If there aren’t enough pledges, then nothing happens.
Many creative projects are being funded this way. It’s pretty amazing to see the amount of money that is being offered to get projects off the ground. It’s well becoming the replacement of grants especially in the field of the arts, literature, music, gaming and video.
Since I have so much artwork, I decided to offer the original oil paintings that were used for the first book Deception Peak, plus the cover illustrations for the four short stories in the A Tale of the Four Wizards series as perks for this project.
There are also smaller level rewards such as eBook and print book packages and signed posters. There’s something for everyone, actually.
MCW: Dianne, thank you so much for taking the time to chat with me regarding your work.
I encourage my readers to check out the Ian’s Realm Trilogy and to visit Kickstarter to see what you are offering to those who wish to participate. But you’ll want to act quickly! The Kickstarter campaign lasts only through April 13.