Something Strange and Deadly, a YA historical novel with zombies and a steampunk vibe, is out TODAY! And I have the pleasure to interview debut author Susan Dennard about the release and her writing process. As a reminder, the idea behind the “Writer in the Spotlight” feature is that published authors are the best source of advice for us, would-be-published writers.
A writer in the spotlight – 11
Author : Susan Dennard
Genre : Young Adult, Fantasy
Official Book Trailer: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bnQuHXPTUP0&feature=youtu.be
Books : Something Strange and Deadly series: Something Strange and Deadly (2012), A Darkness Strange and Lovely (2013) from Harper Teen.
My interview (22/07/2012):
Did you always know you wanted to be a writer?
I can’t say that I ALWAYS knew. I didn’t start putting my daydreams onto paper until I was around 13 or so. After that, all my dreams of a becoming a marine biologist vanished in my obsession with writing (though I was a TERRIBLE writer). Of course, I was such a snotty teen, though, that I refused to be taught–I didn’t want to learn to write since I thought I was already amazing. Ha! Then, when I went off to school to major in creative writing, I got side-tracked by marine biology. Funny how those things work!
I still love science and the marine world. College and graduate school were amazing experiences. In fact, the only reason I returned to writing was because my husband and I would have to live apart if I pursued my PhD. So–rather than separate–I moved with him to Germany, started writing (and studying the craft of writing) full-time, and the rest is history!
When and where do you write?
I write in my office everyday. Or…I do something writing-related everyday. I’m very strict about this. My rule is that if my husband is working, I ought to be too! So either I’m BICHOK-ing (butt-in-chair, hands-on-keyboard), revising, or working on “administrative stuff” (emails, blogging, self-promotion, etc.).
What do you say to people who want to be writers?
Do it! Sit down and write. That’s the only way to achieve your dreams–but make sure you dream big too! I think success is three-part: aiming high, working hard, and not giving up. It’s so EASY to let dreams slide away when things take a while or don’t work out as you’d hoped. But you CAN’T give up. My mantra before I was published and to this day is: “It’s not a race. You know what you want, Sooz, so just keep on plugging away until you get there.”
I want to share my stories with as many people as possible, and so that’s what I’m trying to do!
On Something Strange and Deadly
To write this book, where did you get your inspiration from? (How did you come up with a historical novel with zombies?!)
Well, the initial premise came from a dream. My brother was missing; I knew I’d do anything to save him; and the only people who could help mewere a ragtag team of outcasts. I took that idea and fleshed it out. I knew I wanted a paranormal/creepy element, and I settled on ghosts and corpses after rummaging through what scared me most! It sounds so silly, but honestly, I scanned my shelves trying to pick out which books made my skin crawl. If I was scared, then surely I could transfer that fear onto the page–and nothing creeps me out more than ghouls and zombies!
The historical aspect–specifically 1876–came about because I knew I wanted a steampunk vibe (but not 100% steampunk). I adore 19th century literature and history, and after some preliminary research, I discovered the Centennial Exhibition (the first American World’s Fair). I thought, “Whoa! What a great place for walking corpses! What if…what if my team of outcasts are actually zombie-fighters brought in to protect the Exhibition?”
And that, my friends, is how Something Strange and Deadly came to be.
Why did you choose to write for young adults?
I’m not sure I ever consciously set out to write YA…I just knew I wanted to write a book that I would love. And of all the books I’ve read, the ones that stay with me the most are the books I enjoyed growing up and during my teen years. I knew I wanted to write THAT sort of book, and so…I did!
What are you working on now?
Right now, I’m writing the third book in the Something Strange and Deadly series (so weird to work on it when book 1 isn’t even out yet!) as well as a novella set before the events in the trilogy. I’m also working on some other projects–Screechers, an epic fantasy in a desert world; an untitled space opera with author Sarah Maas (Throne of Glass, Bloomsbury 2012); and a fluffy, fun contemporary.