How long have you been writing?
My writing journey began in 2013 whilst working in Papua New Guinea. A friend was writing a novel, and I thought writing one myself would be an excellent way to take my mind off the long hours we were working. I soon learned that writing was an excellent way to escape reality and let me dive into any fantasy world I chose to explore.
In what order do you write your books? (Do you outline the plot first, work on world-building, create the characters etc)
I’m a heavy plotter. I begin by writing a one paragraph summary of the book: who the protagonist is and what does he want, who the antagonist is and how do they make my protagonist’s life hell, and what is the outcome.
I then buy a scrapbook and hand write a long summary of every chapter, making sure I hit all of the important elements; the call to adventure, the inciting event, the point of no return etc. Finally, I type my novel with a very clear idea of where everything is heading.
How much research usually goes into your books?
Not a lot. I write fantasy worlds, so I decide what goes. However, I spend a lot of time researching the craft of writing, from plot and structure to character arcs.
Where can readers find and interact with you?
I’m most active on my Instagram account: author_downunder_m.dane Come and say g’day and let me know what you think of my stories.
What is the most draining part of writing?
The first draft for sure! It increases my grey hair count substantially, and is by far the longest part. But the completion is also the most rewarding.
How often do you see parts of yourself in your characters?
I don’t tend to write myself into novels, but I write about the world I’d love to explore. Everything from the elf treehouse city of Trinnifain, to the magical Camp Arbor where they teach beastcraft. If I could step foot into any novel, it would be my novels, because I have written to my taste and fantasies.
Does the environment impact your writing?
I’m sure it does on a subconscious level, but it is not something I notice. What does influence my writing is the music I play. If I’m writing a battle scene, I will play intense cinematic music scores, if I’m writing a mellow out chapter, I get a kick out of playing “Hobbiton ambience” on youtube. Yes, I’m a nerd.
What is the most important thing you learned from writing in general?
The power of perseverance and dedication. You miss learning opportunities if you fail to fight through the tough times. Many well-known authors have had their first novels rejected by agents and publishers. Some just have to work harder than others. You need to get the bad books out of your system before you write the good ones.
What made you decide children’s fiction was the way to go?
I have a very immature sense of humour, which translates well to middle-grade novels.
How do you deal with writer’s block?
Urgh, writer’s block! For me, writer’s block is not a problem with my mind or motivation, but a problem with the novel. If I’m struggling to figure out what is happening next, it typically indicates I’ve made a mistake earlier in the book, such as not fleshing out the characters enough, or trying to force them to do something they wouldn’t do. Once I figure out the problem, I revisit it and rewrite if needs be, and then poof, writer’s block gone.
How did you come up with the story behind this novel?
The Curse of the Spider-riders came about when I decided to write a book about my nieces and nephews. I wanted to capture all of their unique personalities and put it in a fantasy world. I made them into faeries, a beetle, a squirrel and a spider-rider.
How did you decide each character’s personality?
This was easy; I based all of the key characters on my nieces and nephews. I used them as a compass to see how my characters would react in different situations.
How did you come up with this world?
My world is called Hemoertha, and all four of my novels take place in it, over different time periods and locations. With every novel I write, I am building the world into a character itself, with its own past, present and future.
Why were Faeries and Spider-Riders chosen for this book?
In my first novel, The Traitor in the Trees, I briefly touched on faeries, and how they lived in a faerie hive. I found the concept interesting, so I revisited the faeries in this book. The spider-riders were chosen because I wanted something faerie height to be the enemy. Spiders weren’t sentient enough, so I created the monsters to ride them.
How did you decide which mundane aspects of this world should be special in the story?
Everything in a story needs to have a purpose, including setting. Because of this, anything I wrote about was there for a reason, primarily to hamper my main character’s efforts to find freedom.
Who was your favourite character to write?
I loved writing Cooper, the young spider-rider. His innocence, his determination to be the best, and his excessive use of hereby. I often found myself laughing out loud at some of the things the crazy little bugger said.
How did you decide Jakoby’s flaw should be clumsiness?
Because this is a children’s book, I wanted to have a light-hearted flaw, something kids could associate with, without it getting too deep.
How do you decide which part of the characters would be used for comedic relief/effect?
I’m happy for humor to be on 90% of my pages. I love it. Even in the serious scenes, a quick line of humor can be surprising and doubly funny. I believe every character can be humorous, just not always on purpose.
Do you ever write characters inspired by people in your life?
Rarely. I’ve given characters the same names as friends and family, but it stops there; no personality traits cross over to page. The obvious exception is The Curse of the Spider-riders, which is brimming with the personality of my Nieces and Nephews.
How do you approach writing for children?
Humor, heart and adventure. I need my novel to have all of these. The books I loved reading as a child had these ingredients, so I aim to include them in my stories.
What was the most fun part about writing this story?
Writing the insults! The faerie children insult the main character quite a lot. This, for the most part, was not malicious, but stems from a lack of understanding about humans. It was great fun to tease my character through a child’s mouth.
If you didn’t start writing what would you be doing now?
Probably enjoying a few too many pints at the pub, waiting for the footy to start. Go the Storm!
What is one thing you would say to aspiring writers?
Write, read, learn. Don’t give up. Aim to constantly improve, and you will. Hunt for honest reviews; negative reviews may sting, but they help you become a better writer.
What is one thing all your stories have in common?
Fantasy. Magic. Adventure. Humor.
What is one word you would use to describe yourself?
What inspires you the most?
My dream of buying a campervan and traveling the world in it, writing, exploring, living. I’m an avid traveller, and have made it to 66 countries so far. I’d love to do it full time.
How do you handle criticisms about your books?
You mean after I finish crying? I’ll be honest, after pouring your heart and soul into a book, it hurts when someone doesn’t enjoy it as much as you’d hoped. But lessons are there to be learned, so I try to understand what they didn’t like, and try not to make the same mistake in my next one.
What is the publishing experience like?
I’m an indie author, so I publish my own novels through Amazon’s KDP. It is a relatively straightforward process, and always amazing when I finally get to hold a hard copy version of my book.
Have you ever changed a part of a book to keep a line or scene?
Interesting question. I’m sure I have to some degree, though I can’t pinpoint a certain time. If this happens, it will be because I come up with a brilliant idea later in the book, and I need to set it up earlier by planting Easter eggs and foreshadowing.
What do you write on?
I buy a new scrapbook for each novel. I work on this while I’m plotting. I change to my beat-up, light-weight laptop which is where I begin the story. It has been with me on many overseas adventures and looks like I’d found it in the dump. But Scrivener works on it, so I’m happy.
That’s All I Got,Danielle.