author of The Mad Wolf's Daughter
Author, I Never is a new segment in which I interview fellow authors about the writing process, breaking into the industry, and breaking rules. I try to mix it up a little and ask some hopefully novel questions along with some of the old standards, and finish it up with a round of I Never (kid friendly version) to find out what cardinal writing rules we've broken.
Question the first: Diane, when did you first know you wanted to be a writer?
I was fourteen years old and I’d written my first novel: the story of a girl, a young man, and a sword. I never stopped writing after that.
Question the second: What has been your proudest or most exciting moment as an author so far?
When I had first phone call with my editor, Kathy Dawson (and this was just before she signed me), and she told me that she loved my novel. I’d written other novels before, but The Mad Wolf’s Daughter was special: it’s the novel I wrote for 12-year-old me as well as present-day-me, and meant more to me than anything else I’d written. To find that an editor at a top publishing house understood it and loved it, too, was an incredible moment of affirmation and connection.
Question the third: At what point did you think to yourself "I've made it" or at what point do you think you'll feel that way?
In the big sense of I’ve Made It, I’ll have to see; I’ve celebrated the triumphs along the way (getting a dream agent, editor, and cover artist), but I’m also always deep in another novel, so it never quite feels as if I’ve finished or triumphed completely. I expect that will continue!
Question the fourth: Did any experienced authors or industry people mentor or give you helpful guidance on your journey to publication?
I was very lucky to have Casey Lyall (author of the Howard Wallace, P.I. series) read an early draft and share her thoughts. Casey is also a children’s librarian, and she had good, challenging questions for me. She also answered my own many questions about different angles in publishing, read and critiqued my queries, cheered me on, and to this day generously shares her own experiences and insights of the children’s book world.
Question the fifth: Have you ever had a time when you've felt like giving up?
Fortunately, I never had the chance to give up on The Mad Wolf’s Daughter—the agent I wanted most signed me after one revision and a further tweak—but I was ready in the back of my mind to start a new work if I needed to, though I would revise this one as much as I could first. Revision is the key: you have to be willing to do it. It’s like amputation for my medieval characters: if you cut off a major part with care, the patient will survive—and have an entirely new outlook.
Question the sixth: What was the most inconvenient time or place you were struck by inspiration?
At my day job during a meeting! I had to sit still and pay attention and be ready to say my part while very quickly scribbling a cryptic note to myself about the solution to a scene I was working on.
Question the seventh: Can you give us hint to help us find an "easter egg" or hidden item to look for in one of your books? Maybe an obscure clue if there's a mystery thread, or a reference you threw in to a favorite book or song?
I really, really wanted to throw a Hamilton quote in my novel. But it just didn’t work. The best one I could think of was “I wasn’t aware that was something a person could do,” but it never made it. (A Game of Thrones reference would have been more fitting for this book, but that would have been even more complicated.)
That would have been so cool! Maybe next book. I'll look for it. Okay, time for the...
I Never Round
The basic rules of I Never, the kid friendly version- I state a generally established writing rule (or at least a norm). If you've broken that rule, state your guilt for the record.
I never made up a word in my manuscript, and stood by it during copyediting.
True. (I have, however, made up town names and colorful insults, and I stand by every one.)
I never had an amazing idea right before bed, and decided sleep was more important.
True. (Just don’t look at the scrap paper, notebooks, and pens by my bedside, nor the fresh ink…)
I never started a story with a character waking up, looking in the mirror, or in a bathtub.
True. (Except recently, where the character wakes up disorientated to extreme danger. I’d love to see more writers take tropes like these and subvert them: e.g., have someone look into a mirror and a withered hand reaches out from the glass; or is taking a bath and a tentacle dislodges the plug and comes up from the drain.)
I never worked on two manuscripts at once.
True. (Except when my editor needs me to stop what I’m working on to return to what she’s just edited…or when I think of changes for a work I’ve set aside to revise later…or when I come up with a new idea…).
I never went several days or even weeks without writing.
True. If I even tried to do this, I’d turn into a savage Pictish beast. I took a few weeks off from writing while I was on a research trip to Scotland and kept my inner Pictish beast at bay with the excuse that it was a research trip. (And in the name of research, I wrote a few scenes.)
I never wrote "for a long moment."
True. Not when I needed filler. Not when I was tired. Not even when a moment extended beyond a reasonable length of time. (You’ll never see the evidence.)
I never cheated during NaNoWriMo.
True, but I’ve never participated, so never had the chance! (I probably would have cheated.)
Thank you so much for appearing in Author, I Never! When and where can we look for, preorder, or buy your next or most recent book, and where can we follow you on social media?
My debut novel The Mad Wolf’s Daughter will be out on March 6, 2018. You can preorder it on Amazon [https://www.amazon.com/Mad-Wolfs-Daughter-Diane-Magras/dp/0735229260/ref=tmm_hrd_swatch_0?_encoding=UTF8&qid=1494165571&sr=8-1] or
Barnes & Noble [https://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/the-mad-wolfs-daughter-diane-magras/1126270831?ean=9780735229266], or go the Listening Library [http://www.penguinrandomhouseaudio.com/book/552017/the-mad-wolfs-daughter/] for the audio version.
And to connect with me on social media, scope out my website (https://www.dianemagras.com/) or find me on Twitter (https://twitter.com/dianemagras), Facebook (https://www.facebook.com/dianemagrasbooks/), Instagram (https://www.instagram.com/dianemagras/), or Goodreads (https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/15572575.Diane_Magras).
Bonus question: If The Mad Wolf's Daughter had a theme song, what would it be?
Gosh, that's hard. I don't typically listen to music while I'm writing. My son is telling me to say the dark masculine theme from Monty Python and the Holy Grail. That probably would fit, though it could also be a combination of Bruno Coulais's brilliant compositions for The Secret of Kells.
DJ Spotify, which do you prefer?