The Six Train to Wisconsin

kourtney heinzToday I have a wonderful guest blogger, author Kourtney Heintz.  Kourtney has written a novel that is getting all kinds of fantastic reviews and I’m so lucky and honored to be able to participate in her promotional tour of THE SIX TRAIN TO WISCONSIN.  This novel is not YA, but Kourtney was recently picked up by Agent Lyndsay Hemphill of ICM Partners and they are working together to get Kourtney’s YA novel she wrote some time ago in the public arena.  You can read about that surprise phone call  here.

Today, Kourtney is visiting my blog to talk about world-building, so without further ado, please give it up for Ms. Kourtney Heintz!


World building as You Go

When I’m drafting a story, I don’t have everything figured out before I start writing. I have a 2-5 page outline. I have certainty around the first 50 pages. Anything beyond that is mutable. Even if I think it isn’t at the time.

I still get surprised by the discovery of my story world rules as I go. Sometimes a rule doesn’t work throughout the novel and I need to rethink it. Other times, there aren’t enough rules and I need to go back and constrain powers more.

Or a power doesn’t trump another one the way I need it to. Oh the joy of writing fantasy/speculative fiction!

In The Six Train to Wisconsin, Kai’s a telepath whose mind is inundated with others’ thoughts and feelings. I had to decide on how far her powers stretched. At first, I set the parameter at several miles. But it didn’t work for the severity of her situation. I needed a small area to be causing her terrible trouble. I needed her being in New York to pile on the problems. So I cut the radius down to half a mile.

This set up Oliver’s reason for leaving the city. A half-mile radius in the country wouldn’t be a problem. It gave him a solution to work toward.

I had just read a story about how readers were disappointed with a recent YA book because the author allowed the character’s super powers to save the day. The article espoused how the character’s own inner traits should be what helps them solve the problem.

I found a way to put Kai’s powers on the fritz. To make it about her courage and her bravery. To not make it about her telepathy, but about who she is: a brave and loving woman who puts others before herself.

I had no clue how Caleb’s abilities worked until I had to have Kai explain them to Oliver.  Then I realized, Caleb was too powerful as a dreamwalker. If he could go into anyone’s dreams, there was no limit. So I imposed a limit. He had to have an actual bond with the person. Otherwise, he’d be able to go into anyone’s head.

I struggled with the rules and the hierarchy of powers. Things shifted from draft to draft. Feedback from others poked at worldbuilding that needed fleshing out or tightening up. Plot holes were filled in and paved over. All necessary steps to get to my final novel.

Now, it’s impossible to imagine the worldbuilding any way besides how it is.

SixTraintoWisconsin1600The Six Train to Wisconsin Back Cover:

Sometimes saving the person you love can cost you everything.

There is one person that ties Oliver Richter to this world: his wife Kai. For Kai, Oliver is the keeper of her secrets.

When her telepathy spirals out of control and inundates her mind with the thoughts and emotions of everyone within a half-mile radius, the life they built together in Manhattan is threatened.

To save her, Oliver brings her to the hometown he abandoned—Butternut, Wisconsin—where the secrets of his past remain buried. But the past has a way of refusing to stay dead. Can Kai save Oliver before his secrets claim their future?

An emotionally powerful debut, The Six Train to Wisconsin pushes the bounds of love as it explores devotion, forgiveness and acceptance.

Author Bio:

Kourtney Heintz writes emotionally evocative speculative fiction that captures the deepest truths of being human. For her characters, love is a journey never a destination.

She resides in Connecticut with her warrior lapdog, Emerson, her supportive parents and three quirky golden retrievers. Years of working on Wall Street provided the perfect backdrop for her imagination to run amuck at night, imagining a world where out-of-control telepathy and buried secrets collide.

Her debut novel, The Six Train to Wisconsin, was a 2012 Amazon Breakthrough Novel Award Semifinalist.

Connecting with Kourtney



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Buy Links

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Goodreads giveaways going on until July 1:

 5 free signed copies of my book (US only):

For Canadians, 1 signed copy:

Several other countries, 1 signed copy:


Inspiration for creating fantasy creatures is as close as your local aquarium

This past Sunday, my family and I drove from the west coast of Florida to Orlando.  It was a dual purpose trip:  one to meet a fellow author and friend I’ve been talking to for almost 2 years online, and two, to visit Sea World.  Meeting my online friend and hanging out with her and her family for the whole day at the park was amazing.  We got along as well together in person as we have online and on the phone.  I feel very blessed we were able to meet and solidify our friendship.

Sea World itself offered up some surprises as well.  If you’re a writer, then you know you can never turn off the writer in you, no matter what the occasion.  It could be a funeral and you’ll always look for something to take note of for future stories.  To my surprise, glorious inspiration came to me inside the aquarium.  What caught my fascination?

Sea dragons.

Yes, Matilda, there are such thing as Sea Dragons, and when I met them, my brain flipped on and all sorts of ‘fantasy’ stories started firing in my head.  I mean, look at these guys.  They’re known as Leafy Sea Dragons.


My mouth dropped when I saw them.  Aren’t they magnificent?

But the wonders didn’t stop here.  On the other side of the same vertical tank were delightful creatures known as Weedy Sea Dragons.  I spent close to an hour hovering around this tank, taking notes about how they moved, what they looked like.  There was even a pair of Weedy’s that stayed very close to each other, as if they might be a mating pair.  Unfortunately, I didn’t get a good picture of them together as my camera phone wasn’t cooperating very well, but I do have these to share from other websites.  (If you look carefully in the 2nd picture above, you can see a Weedy swimming in the background to the right).

Truly spectacular.

Needless to say, I must write about these beautiful, unusual species.  In fact, I already have an idea of how to incorporate them in the last novel of my Chronicles of Fallhollow series.

What about you?  Do you use real-life animals as inspiration to write fictional creatures?