Woelf Dietrich mostly writes tales of dark fantasy and the supernatural which is maybe not such a far cry from his lawyering days. Sometimes he writes other things. He resides in New Zealand with his wife and kids and a dog.
As a kid, I read a lot. Anything from fantasy to westerns to science fiction. I started making up my own stories and wrote my first short story at 12.
I also started drawing comics–little stick figures with dialogue balloons that later evolved into musclebound warriors and scantily clad vixens. I gave them battle axes and broadswords and unleashed various renditions of the Kraken on them. A silent chaos ensued, followed by crickets chirping and nothing much else.
Alas, life kept interfering and I allowed it, and nothing came from my artistic endeavors.
After graduating high school, I served a year in the military where I learned to dig trenches, eat quickly, and miss girls. I traveled to Israel and lived on a Kibbutz for almost a year, working in avocado fields and drinking cheap vodka. I sold pots and pans and educational toys in Africa for a while and almost got shot by Mugabe’s guards in Zimbabwe one night.
I did a brief stint as cartoonist somewhere and an even briefer stint as reporter somewhere else. Of course, the next ‘logical’ step was to start a business producing stained glass terrariums and weird-looking vases, which I did for about a year.
Somehow, and maybe by accident, I ended up in law school and became a lawyer. I did that for almost a decade.
These days I find myself in New Zealand with a wife and three kids and a dog named Stella, but I’m back to writing stories and I’ve been doing it for five years. I mostly write tales of dark fantasy and the supernatural, which is maybe not such a far cry from my lawyering days. Sometimes I write other things.
I co-founded and serve as legal adviser for Kōsa Press and I’m a member of the sci-fi writer’s group, The Collective SF.
New review of Woelf’s upcoming story in the ‘Interspecies’ anthology which is coming out at the end of this month:
Hi Woelf Dietrich, welcome to the Fantasy Sci-Fi Network’s interview space shuttle. We are always excited to meet other authors in the genres and we’re delighted you swung by for a chat. I believe you are the first New Zealand author we have interviewed here and we wish to extend you a warm welcome.
Firstly, I’m wondering if you use a pen name and why?
Yes, Woelf Dietrich is a pen name. I took it from the German hero of romance, Wolfdietrich. I thought it apt given my primary writing interest. My reason for choosing a pen name is twofold. First, I wanted to keep my real name private in case I ever decide to practice law again. Secondly, in case my writing suck and I embarrass myself I would still have my unblemished real name. That doesn’t matter anymore and I have grown quite fond of my adopted name. The embarrassment factor still prevails, of course, but having become more involved in the writing community, I now realize that my fear is not unique, and that in order to find any measure of success, I should write through that fear.
It is a cool-sounding author name.
What other writing have you done?
Apart from The Seals of Abgal above, I have written many things that would probably never see the light of day, but I do have a couple of active projects for 2016. I have a short story that came out last year called Bullies and Soggy Soup Bones which deals with bullying in a straightforward manner. Bullying is more about the fear than anything else and to conquer any bully you need to conquer your own fear first which is not an easy thing to do.
Kosa Press published These Broken Worlds in 2015 and it contains three of my short stories, which, by the way, have been nominated for the 2016 Sir Julius Vogel Award.
I applaud you for writing the tricky topic of bullying. What made you choose the fantasy and supernatural genres?
I love fantasy and science fiction and supernatural things. If I have to choose I’d say fantasy is my first love. That is what got me reading as a child. The supernatural aspect deals more with my fascination with the world beyond our realm and with the various mythological tales from all the wonderfully rich cultures we have in this world. They make me think and wonder and when that happens I start writing.
Have you used any real events or places as inspiration for your writing?
I love mythology. Mythology is the original fantasy. Both ‘Spirit Bow’ and The Seals of Abgal uses real places and I rely a lot on lore across various cultures. One scene in The ‘Spirit Bow’ takes place in what is known as the Cedars of God in Lebanon. When I originally wrote the scene I wasn’t even aware of the real setting, but when I started my research and discovered the place in Lebanon and how it corresponded almost precisely with what I had created in my story I was blown away. I rely heavily on Sumerian mythology in this book. Similarly, in the Dead God, my protagonist is based on Slavic lore and a real historical figure who killed a dragon. No, really, he did! They still have the bones of the dragon hanging over the entrance to the Cathedral of St Wenceslaus on Wawel hill in Poland. Some say it’s actually a wale bone, but I know better.
Do you have another job outside of writing?
I work as a freelancer from home, but officially and until I can feed my family with income generated by my writing, I am a stay-at-home dad to my three children.
That’s a great option to have.
What music do you listen to when writing?
Soundtracks are emotionally awesome. Whenever I read or do research I’ll listen to a variety, but when I write only instrumental will do. Lyrics would just distract from my own efforts.
What are you working on now?
Quite a few projects.
- Interspecies (Science Fiction / Kōsa Press)
The setting is a broken Earth after a massive war between aliens and humans destroyed most of the world. Our stories will overlap in some way or another, creating a kosalogy. My story is titled, “Babylon’s Song,” and I’m busy fine-tuning it before it goes back to our editor for a final round of edits.
- The Morrigan, book 2 of The Guardians of the Seals (Urban Fantasy/Supernatural)
I have three books planned for this series. Book 1, The Seals of Abgal, is already out and introduces the series (You can read a fawning review on Amazing Stories Magazine). Book 2 is a few drafts in and called “The Morrigan,” and book 3 is tentatively titled “Rebirth.”
My protagonist is a novice antiquarian bookseller called Sebastian Kaine. Sebastian is also the last living guardian of the Seals of Abgal, a book even gods fight over.
iii. The Spirit Bow, book 1 of the Land of Giants series (Fantasy)
I’m writing an epic fantasy that takes place in an antediluvian world populated by giants and gods and monsters.
Synopsis: Ashur, son of a temple prostitute and a Gutean barbarian, is in love with the Sumerian princess, Enhed, and they desperately want to marry. But Ashur is a bastard and mere commoner and will need to perform an act of great bravery and courage to impress her father, the Lugal of Eridu, if he hopes to get even a whiff of a chance at obtaining the king’s approval.
And so Ashur sets forth on an epic quest to the Mountains of the Gods in search of the Spirit Tree from which he intends to cut and fashion a magnificent bow and present it to the Lugal in the hopes that such a godly gift would impress the king enough for him to allow the union between a commoner and member of the royal house.
But Ashur will come to discover that finding the Spirit Tree is only the beginning of his journey. A journey that would see the bastard child of a temple prostitute become a god of war for a new nation of people. (My wife’s been pushing me to get this one done.)
- The Dead God (Heroic Fantasy)
The Dead God is a failed game proposal I’m adapting into a heroic fantasy novel of the same name. I based the premise on Slavic lore and it features a hero named Krakus, veteran soldier of the 100-Year War. This is a standalone novel and I’ve already written a detailed outline.
- Hameln-13 (Science Fiction)
This is a science fiction retelling of the Legend of the Pied Piper of Hamelin. Only, in this tale the setting is an outpost planet in a remote galaxy, and instead of a rat problem my characters will face weird-looking creatures called Murr who haven’t eaten in over a century and are apparently really hungry (Thank you, Captain Obvious!).
- The Mercy Giver (Supernatural Horror/Cosmic Horror)
A tale about a psychopath on the loose with a warped sense of destiny who is forced to deal with his literal demons.
You are busy!
What’s your writing routine?
At the moment I write when the kids are at school. I get up early to do my emails, but with small kids getting up early isn’t that effective anymore; they wake up just as early as you. I feed them and get them ready for school and make their lunch boxes. After I get back from taking them to school I make coffee and go through the previous day’s writing to get me in the mood and then I write a couple hours. About lunchtime I check for new writing gigs and/or job vacancies in my area until it’s time to fetch the kids. After that, I can forget about writing because I have to plan dinner, get the kids bathed, help with homework, etc.
How did you go about developing your cover artwork for The Seals of Abgal?
In The Seals of Abgal there is mention of the sages who are collectively known as Abgal. In Sumerian lore they were half man-half fish and so I knew I wanted a sigil of a fish on the cover. In the end I found the perfect image, licensed it from the creator, Phillip Anderson of West Wolf Renaissance, and together with my artist, Fena Lee, we assembled the cover. It went through a few transitions until I was able to sit back and say, “That’s perfect!” In fact, I liked the image so much I commissioned Phillip to design the crow sigil for the second book, The Morrigan, which Fena then incorporated in her overall design of the cover.
Who are your five favourite authors?
I usually hate this question because I don’t favor a few. I’ve always had an affinity for fantasy and its various sub-genres, but I can say the same of other genres too, including literary fiction. So my inspiration, generally and for future projects, will always include Robert E. Howard, Edgar Rice Burroughs, Robert B. Parker, A.J. Quinnell, Hammond Innes, Desmond Bagley, Louis L’Amour, Ernest Hemingway, Neil Gaiman, Robert Harris, Morris West, David Eddings, Ken Follett, JRR Tolkien, and a lot of others whose names I don’t recall at the moment. This is not and never will be, a closed list. All of these guys make me want to write. At the moment I’m a Gaiman fanboy. I also love Bernard Cornwell’s Warrior Chronicles and I’m addicted to David Gemmell’s heroic fantasy series, and I love Mark Lawrence’s Broken Empire trilogy. As you go through life and mature, you go through different stages, experience emotions that are ever evolving, and the books are there, each one befitting whatever mood you are in, whatever level of maturity you’ve attained. The same book can impact you differently the next year or it can call back emotions you’ve long forgotten, and that is why I love these authors. They are always there, ready to feed you what you need.
What’s your dream job and do you think you’ll do it one day?
My dream job is the one I’m doing now and that is writing. Only it’s not a completely realized dream. Once I make enough to support my family on a regular basis, on that day I will open a bottle of champaign and celebrate because the dream had become tangible and real.
Do you prefer ebook or hardcopy?
Both. I reserve hardcopy for special books and favorite writers.
Favourite food: Beef stew
Silliest saying: I don’t have a silly saying. I’m too mature for that. Also, *awesome!* and *cool!*
Best holiday spot: Somewhere in the Mediterranean
Favourite song at the moment: At the moment, En kommentoi by Antti Tuisku.
Star Wars or Lord of the Rings: Damn you! They cannot be in the same category. You can have both LOR and Star Wars.
Number one thing to do on your bucket list: Live on an Island and write or take my kids to Disney World. Maybe do the Disney thing first and get that out of the way.
Thanks Woelf for dropping by and sharing your thoughts with us Fantasy Sci-Fi Network readers today. You gave some great answers. We look forward to reading your books.
Interviewed by Kasper Beaumont, author of the Hunters of Reloria fantasy series. www.huntersofreloria.weebly.com
Woelf Dietrich’s links:
Barnes & Noble: http://goo.gl/KWXZC1
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