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Interview with D W Frauenfelder, author of Skater In A Strange Land

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Sherm Reinhardt is an ice hockey player, first and last. So when he gets the chance to play the game professionally, he doesn’t mind skating after his dream into a parallel universe. Skater in a Strange Land takes Sherm to Borschland, a mythical country sometimes found in the South India Ocean. Borschland is half in this world, and half out, which is why it seldom shows up on maps of the world. It’s a place lost in time where the locals drive horse-drawn carriages, fly in helium-filled airships, and are mad about their hockey.

When Sherm arrives, he’s happy just to make the team. Then, to his surprise and delight, his game takes off and his team seems poised to breeze to a championship. But almost as quickly, our hero finds himself hip-deep in off-ice trouble: talking bears mixed up in political intrigue, the attractions of Rachael, a talented Borschic poetess, and a rumor that Sherm’s success has been fixed by higher-ups. Is Sherm a pawn in a grander game? Finding the truth – even if it means losing Rachael – becomes Sherm’s ultimate goal.

It says “A fantasy novel” on the cover. Is that the best genre for Skater In A Strange Land?
You may have heard of steampunk; I’d consider Skater in a Strange Land steampunk-lite. Full-fat steampunk is heavy on Victorian manners, airships, leather corsets, and outlandish technology. Skater has the manners, airships and even parallel universes, but is light on the corsets. Probably the most outlandish technology is ice rink refrigeration.

What kind of readers will it appeal to?
I’ve been surprised at the versatility of this book. Sports fans have praised the hockey; fantasy readers love the world of Borschland; people that read for memorable characters have praised the cast in Skater (Linus Black Jr., the talking bear political dissident, has been a favorite). And if you like travel, foreign cultures, and the weird, fun stuff that happens when you go to a different country or a parallel universe for the first time, this will be right up your alley.

Complete this sentence for us: if you like _________________, you’ll love my book.
Te Hart.

Te Hart?
Te Hart is a Borschic term (Borschlanders are mostly Dutch in ancestry) that literally means “The Heart,” but it really means “the longing of the heart” or “the heart’s desire.” Everyone in this book, even the villain, is pursuing a passion, pursuing what they are longing for or at least what they think they want. This makes for a story with high stakes and hopefully, high fun.

We’re only halfway into the interview and we already feel sucked into the world you’ve created. Tell us about Sherm. We want to know him too.
Sherm grew up in central Minnesota and went to Land o’ the Lakes College to play ice hockey. His mother and father have passed, only his sister, Cathy, survives as next-of-kin. That’s one reason why he feels he has nothing to lose by going to a place he’s never heard of. He’s tall and athletic, but he’s never gotten that one break that can make him fully believe in himself. Like a lot of hockey players, he is a down-to-earth guy, not complex, but with a true-blue heart, a crooked nose, and the kind of eyes that send poetesses dreaming.

Is this a dark story or a feel-good one?
I hate the term “feel-good story,” but I want my readers to be in that ecstatic state at the end of the book where they say, “Tomorrow may be different, but today the world is okay!”

What’s the story behind your book’s title?
Skater in a Strange Land is a play on the title Stranger in a Strange Land, which is a famous science fiction novel by Robert A. Heinlein. I loved that book, and I think the title still resonates with readers. But I look also to the origin of the phrase. which is from the book of Exodus (2:22) in the Old Testament. It’s what Moses calls himself after he has to go into exile after killing an Egyptian. I also think of Psalm 137, where the Jewish author of the psalm who finds himself in exile in Babylon asks “How can I praise the Lord in a strange land?” I don’t expect my readers to get all of this, but for me it underlines the idea of Sherm going away from what he knows and having to make his way in an unfamiliar setting.

That’s deep. Tell us about the person whose mind that sprung from.
Since boyhood I have preferred to spend my time in fantasy worlds, but for the sake of financial solvency and my wife’s sanity, I have also developed the ability to teach Latin and Greek. I have always written; I wrote my first novel in third grade, but in adulthood I have published essays, book reviews, feature articles, opinion pieces, columns, short fiction, and blogs. I am the author of the online course for gifted students, “Growing Up Heroic: Adventures in Greek Mythology.” I live in Durham, North Carolina with aforementioned wife, children, and a pet pygmy hippopotamus about which my seventh grade paparazzi are constantly asking, “Is he real?”

You say you write blogs.
Best to try breakfastwithpandora.com first, the official Borschland blog, but I also have a page on Facebook where I am part of an independent authors’ cooperative, True North Writers & Publishers Cooperative: truenorthwriters.com will get you there. My long-running mythology and popular culture blog is at myth.typepad.com.

What about Twitter?
@truenorthwrite, and if you have any suggestions about what to tweet, let me know. I am not half as witty as the guys on there.

What’s next?
The Skater and the Saint, the continuing adventures of Sherm, Rachael, the bears, and a lot more is releasing around Thanksgiving of 2013.

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