This month's interview is with Daley Downing, author of Masters and Beginners: The Order of the Twelve Tribes, Book 1 (which was featured in my June newsletter). Her book is a delight from start to finish, turning threadbare YA fantasy tropes upside-down to deliver a fresh and engaging story. You have to read it. It's got YA protagonists with PARENTS. Whom they TALK TO. And who are interesting, worthwhile characters in their own right instead of being either dead or part of the furniture. Plus, the world-building is enthralling, and the inclusion of Christian themes is masterfully done. I was very grateful for the chance to interview Daley and delve deeper into her creative process.
Daley's author bio: Former dance teacher, AAS in Early Childhood Education, lover of cats, autistic adult, parent to special needs children. I live on a beautiful remote island guarded by Warrior cats. (Okay, not really, but a girl can dream.)
About Masters and Beginners: When Sophie Driscoll’s grandmother dies, her parents take over running the Annex, a warehouse facility that stores magical artifacts and documents proving, and protecting, the existence of faeries. Sophie and her brothers, Flynn and Cal, happily adjust to a new house, new friends, and a new way of living, joining the ranks of generations who have kept the fey and mortal realms separate for centuries. Before the first month of their new life is over, they’ll encounter romance, elves, talking cats, ancient secrets, and potentially lethal danger. What could possibly go wrong…
How did you come to start writing fantasy?
I didn’t like the stereotype that women “don’t” write fantasy. After trying to write contemporary, romance, and historical fiction, I kept coming back to: “But this would be so much better if they were space pirates/centaur archers/magically hurling fireballs at each other.” Fantasy is my favorite genre to read, and since it also felt like the right one for writing, I went for it.
What inspired the Order of the Twelve Tribes series?
A period of bingeing “Supernatural” and “Warriors.” Seriously. The amount of world-building in the “Warriors” series was so invigorating as a reader, and made me want to accomplish the same as a writer. Also, seasons 8 and 10 of “Supernatural” are some of my favorite TV of the early 21st century, the whole Men of Letters arc, and more background on unusual thoughts about angels and demons. And I can’t ignore that “Warehouse 13” and the reboot of “Doctor Who” definitely planted some seeds.
What was the biggest challenge you faced in getting the book written and published, and how did you overcome it?
The biggest challenge was being myself. Because I refused to write to a formula, like many publishers want right now, I kept getting submissions rejected with the note that “your writing shows promise, but…” Deciding to go with self-publishing made a big difference in finally getting a finished product. Also, forcing myself to stop procrastinating completing the draft by entering it in NaNoWriMo. I really wanted to win (strange, as I’m usually not competitive), so I kept pushing through until I reached 51,000 words, and then a few days later started editing.
What's your favorite music to listen to while writing?
Generally melodic, high-energy songs (including Minecraft parodies of popular chart-toppers), but also The Piano Guys. (At the start of each chapter of Masters and Beginners are lyrics from a song that was on my playlist while writing/editing. So that gives you a pretty good idea of what I was listening to. By the way, that’s going to be a consistent format throughout the series.)
Who are your three favorite writers of fantasy?
Terry Pratchett, JK Rowling, and Erin Hunter.
One of the most unique and refreshing aspects of Masters and Beginners is the inclusion of autistic characters. What would you say is the biggest problem with how people on the autistic spectrum are usually portrayed in fiction, TV, films, etc.?
Too many people don’t understand autism as being a whole body/brain condition that isn’t just a set of symptoms. Nor is it mental illness. Autists are wired differently, and while we do experience things like anxiety/depression/panic attacks that aren’t healthy and do cause challenges, it doesn’t mean every part of us is completely “wrong” or “sick.” Too often in fiction, we see ASD characters shown as practically psychopathic zombies, or very OCD with intensely negative people interactions. The reasons for some of our meltdowns (sensory overload) or apparent lack of feelings (neurotransmitters that don’t process emotions in a “regular” way) aren’t addressed or explained. And too many authors/screenwriters/directors don’t show the really great things about our being “different”, like the way we can be excellent problem solvers or give the world a perspective it was missing before.
What is your favorite writing-craft resource?
I really like reading articles on writing advice on the NaNoWriMo website, or on the blogs of other self-published authors.
What advice would you give aspiring authors working toward publishing their own books?
I would say the most important thing is to stay true to your story. And find the avenue that works best for you. For me, it was self-publishing. For others, it could be signing with an agent. And don’t give up. Don’t throw in the towel at the first (or the tenth) rejection.
Doctor Who question. (You knew it was coming.) 😀 Which Doctor/companion team is your favorite, and why?
Doctor 10 and Rose Tyler. I really love the dynamics of Rose truly becoming herself, the way she grows while with the Doctor and on her own. #10 is really settling in to who he is, as the last Time Lord, as the Doctor, with new or old companions; the sense of so much baggage from the Time Wars finally starts to lessen.
Any teasers for Book 2 in the Twelve Tribes series?
Well, without dropping any spoilers… 🙂 There will be the introduction of a character who’s very important to the rest of the series. There will also be more information on the Seelie Court, certain secondary characters, and of course a few twists that may challenge established Order procedure, and perhaps threaten the safety of a few of readers’ favorites… (insert evil laugh here).
Seriously, though, I’m very excited about some of the new characters — that either weren’t featured prominently in Volume 1, or that were just mentioned before and now readers will get to know a lot more about them — and the role they’ll play from now on. And, again without giving away too much, I will be addressing the ending from Volume 1 in pretty quick order — don’t worry, I won’t leave everyone hanging! 🙂
Thanks for an awesome interview, Daley! Can't wait to read your next book!