My guest today in my virtual studio is the lovely Ms. Madeline Dyer. We met through that wonderful/horrible social media world of Facebook via NANOWRIMO. Madeline is a pleasure to talk to and discuss writing with.
Tell me a little about yourself.
I’m a twenty year-old speculative fiction writer, and my debut novel released in May 2015 from Prizm Books. I’ve always loved the “What if?” aspect of writing, and how, when you create a new world, practically anything can happen.
When I’m not reading or writing, I can usually be found on our farm—we breed Shetland ponies!—or doing some art. I love drawing animals.
What genre do you write?
Most of my work falls into the Science Fiction/Fantasy category. I absolutely love the freedom that fantasy and science fiction offers, but I’m also fascinated by human nature and the capabilities of man—for this reason, most of the societies I write about can be classed as dystopias. This is certainly true of my first novel, UNTAMED, which is a dystopian fantasy for young adults.
How did you get started?
I can’t remember a time when I wasn’t writing! Even as a small child, I remember trying to write a ‘book’. It was only a few pages long, and at that point, I was more interested in doing the illustrations of fairies to go with it! But as I got older, I started writing more and more. When I was nine or ten, our schoolteacher wanted us each to write a story. We were told to write it by hand, then type it up on the computer in the next lesson. I remember being shocked that I was the only one who changed my story, adding in new bits and taking out several scenes, when we were in the computer room. No one else in my class could understand why I was doing that. In the end, I didn’t finish typing it up in the hour—in fact, I never finished typing it up at all, as the next day we were learning something entirely different. But, that’s really the first time I can remember having the desire to edit something I’d already written and make it better.
From there, I never really stopped writing. I had all these ideas that I just needed to get down on paper.
When I was fifteen, I started writing seriously, reading up on the craft and how to edit. At sixteen, I had my first short story published, and had completed the final draft of a 137,000 word novel. Incidentally, I’m still waiting to go back and edit that manuscript!
I got my first book contract when I was nineteen, and UNTAMED was published when I was twenty.
Wow, that’s a great start and at such a young age. KUDOS to you for going for your dream. This should be motivating for young writers or those of us that started later in life. Can you describe your writing routine?
When I’m not working to deadlines, I don’t really have that much of a writing routine, as I just sit down and write most days. I suppose, mostly I write the first thing in the morning, or the last thing at night. The words seem to flow better then. The main chunk of my day is often spent working on other things—marketing, promoting, researching, reading, thinking. But I do try to write everyday. Sometimes, I only manage a few hundred words. On a good day, I’ll get about 4,000 words done. I’ve had a couple of days where I’ve managed 12,000 in a day.
If I’m on a deadline, I tend to spend all day—or as much of the day as I can—working on the manuscript.
I’m also a student, studying for an English degree, so I have to fit my studies in as well!
It is certainly difficult to fit writing time into an already busy schedule. Unfortunately it takes money to pay the bills, therefore we work/go to school/ and fit our writing in whenever we can. What part of writing do you find to be the most difficult?
The first section of the first draft is always one of the hardest parts, for me. This is the stage where I don’t usually know the characters that well, the plot, the setting, or the shape of the manuscript. I tend to just have a simple idea in mind, or an image, and know very roughly what I want to happen by the end of the manuscript. But the beginning? The lead-up? Who the characters are, and how they’ll help or hinder the main character’s goal and the final image? I have no idea; I just have to feel my way around, experiment with different opening sections, until I write the ‘right’ one. And this can take many attempts. But once I’ve got an opening that I’m sort of happy with (even if I know it will change during subsequent drafts), I find it a lot easier to continue writing. And, by the time I get to about 35,000 words on the first draft, I usually know exactly where it’s going and how I’m going to fulfill the original idea I had. Then I find it much easier to keep going with this draft as I’ve built up momentum, made myself interested in this new story.
What advice would you give to aspiring authors?
Just to write. Write what you enjoy, and what you want to write, not what someone else wishes they were writing. So many times, I hear people say something like, “Oh, I’m writing this book because my friend though this would be a cool idea” or “She/he said they want me to write this idea for my next story.”
You should be writing what you write. It’s your story—not anyone else’s. (Unless, of course, you’re co-writing).
But, most of all, have fun.
I’ll admit, I’ve fallen into that trap myself. I’ve followed the conversations in various threads in writing groups, then doubted my own writing to the point that I either gave up on it, or changed things. Most of those are sitting in my dead-file.
Have you ever trashed entire scenes or changed the direction of your story after you get to know the characters better?
Yes! This happens all the time, particularly in rewrites and edits. With UNTAMED, during the pre-sub edits, I cut out about 15k words worth of scenes, and during edits with my editor, we got rid of three or four scenes that just didn’t fit the tone. But quite often, a large portion of my first drafts (particularly the beginnings) get trashed anyway.
I tend to write in a chronological order, so I know the characters a lot better at the end of the draft than at the beginning. This nearly always means that I scrap the first opening (usually a 30k word chunk) and rewrite it, introducing characters in a way that is more appropriate and moves the plot on faster.
Which part of the writing process is the easiest for you?
Hmmm. I think maybe working on a completed first draft. I love editing. I love trying to make my writing better. And, always, when I’m editing and revising a manuscript, I’m researching as well. I try to fact-check everything, and put as much detail in. Often, in the first draft I use placeholder names, and now I need to sub these out. Typically, this happens with the cars my characters drive, the clothes they wear, the background possessions they have. Once I’ve got a first draft done, I know my characters well, and I can go back and add details, trying to be as specific as possible. After all, I think you should be able to tell what sort of person the character is from the material goods he or she has.
Which book that you’ve written is your favourite?
I think I’ll have to go with UNTAMED on this one. I absolutely loved writing it, and I adored the editing processes. Although it was the third completed manuscript that I wrote, it was the first book that got me an offer from a publisher. (Well, four offers to be precise). UNTAMED is very close to my heart, and I’m so pleased with the feedback I’ve had so far. I’m currently writing the sequel, so still get to play in the Untamed world.
What are your top 3 favorite books?
Ooh, this is tricky. My top three books change a lot each year, depending on what I’ve recently read. At the moment, I’d have to say Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn, The Clan of the Cave Bear by Jean M. Auel and The 5th Wave by Rick Yancey.
Very interesting choices. If you watch the movie Gone GIrl – a bit of FYI, it was filmed in Cape Girardeau, Missouri where I attended college. It’s a wonderful little town. I am truly surprised that you have read Jean Auel’s book. Most people of your age ( you are the same age as my oldest daughter) either don’t read, or list only contemporary YA novels.
How do you handle research? Do you gather all data first or start writing while still gathering?
When I’m writing the first draft, I try to keep the heavy research to a minimum (unless it’s absolutely necessary), as I’ve found if I leave the writing and get bogged down in details it slows me down a lot and I lose a lot of momentum. Because I write SFF, I rely heavily on my imagination. That’s what I love about speculative fiction: the freedom it offers. How anything can happen. How I can invent technology, societies and traditions, and not need to rely too heavily on researching ‘current’ things.
However, usually before I start the first draft, I do carry out some research—particularly if the world is based on existing mythology, or if I’m writing science fiction. I can’t be too ‘out there’ with my new SF technology—or if I am, I want to explain how it happened, what it arose from—and I like to have some scientific explanation as a sort of basis to any technology that I do create. I think it makes it more realistic then, and isn’t that what we want?
I also do a lot of research around human behavior and emotion during the later drafts. I’m really into body language as a major part of communication between my characters—as it reflects real life and also helps with the whole ‘show don’t tell’ rule—so I spend a lot of time researching this.
But yes, the bulk of my research comes during the second and third drafts. Mainly, it’s fact-checking stuff really, or finding images of landscapes that work for the setting and then working my own descriptions of these into the manuscript.
Do you outline or are you a pantser?
I think I’m a bit of both.
Before I start writing a new manuscript, I always have a rough idea and know where I want to end up. Sometimes, I’ll know a few of the events that will lead the main character there, but I won’t know how to get from one stepping stone to the other, or what the consequences of the events will be. Also, the only character that I can claim to know at this stage is the narrator, and so when I’m writing I suddenly find subplots unfolding thanks to the motivations of other main characters (who suddenly make themselves known), and secondary characters.
I’ve found working like this is best for me. Because I don’t know exactly what’s going to happen, I still find it exciting myself to write, as if I’m reading it for the first time, being introduced to this new world. I have to keep myself interested, make myself want to write more. If I’m not interested, then I don’t think readers will be either.
Thanks, Ellie! These were some great questions.
UNTAMED, BOOK #1 IN THE UNTAMED SERIES
As one of the last Untamed humans left in the world, Seven’s life has always been controlled by tight rules. Stay away from the Enhanced. Don’t question your leader. And, most importantly, never switch sides, because once you’re Enhanced there’s no going back. Even if you have become the perfect human being.
But after a disastrous raid on an Enhanced city, Seven soon finds herself in her enemy’s power. Realizing it’s only a matter of time before she too develops a taste for the chemical augmenters responsible for the erosion of humanity, Seven knows she must act quickly if she’s to escape and save her family from the same fate.
Yet, as one of the most powerful Seers that the Untamed and Enhanced have ever known, Seven quickly discovers that she alone holds the key to the survival of only one race. But things aren’t clear-cut anymore, and with Seven now questioning the very beliefs she was raised on, she knows she has an important choice to make. One that has two very different outcomes.
Seven must choose wisely whose side she joins, for the War of Humanity is underway, and Death never takes kindly to traitors.
Published by: Prizm Books, the YA imprint of Torquere Press.
Genre: YA dystopian/fantasy/science fiction
Word count: 95,000 words
Pages (paperback): 314
Pages (kindle ebook): 301
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Praise for Untamed:
“From the first line, Untamed pulled me in. This is the sort of book that is incredibly difficult to put down, the kind of book you can fall into and forget the world, forget you’re reading words on a page. Our narrator is a true heroine in a tumultuous futuristic world in which the [Enhanced] Ones are “better, faster and stronger than you.” The premise is unique and engrossing, and by the end of the book I was left wanting more (good thing – it’s a series). As a person who rarely reads fantasy/sci-fi but grew up with it always on the nightstand, Dyer’s book reawakened in me a buried love for the genre.” – Jen Knox, author of AFTER THE GAZEBO.
“Seven is a satisfyingly human main character, whose strength arises not from athleticism or fighting prowess, but loyalty and tenacity, in the face of wobbly self-confidence and the powerful attraction of a superficially attractive lifestyle that’s there for the taking. The other characters are recognisable and individual in their particular failings and weaknesses, and occasional redeeming strengths. The action is plentiful and the pace high as the Enhanced close in – there’s not a lot of stopping to smell the roses. The ending managed to twist and turn [and] left me with no idea of how things might pan out, so I look forward to future installments in Seven’s journey” – Matthew Willis, author of DAEDALUS AND THE DEEP.
“I really enjoyed this book and look forward to the rest of the series. […] Seven was really a heroine I could root for – she was imperfect, conflicted, and real. I could identify with her struggle to choose the easy way versus the way that meant more work and pain. Something almost everyone struggles with at one point or another. […] I’d recommend this book to anyone who likes young adult sci-fi/dystopia” – Samantha, Amazon Review.
Madeline Dyer is the author of Untamed, a YA dystopian fantasy novel from Prizm Books (May 2015). She is currently working on book two in the Untamed Series, as well as a new dystopian trilogy for adults. Aside from writing, Madeline enjoys reading, painting, and inline skating.
Madeline can be found at:
If you haven’t read a dystopian, you should. If you are looking for agood summer read – look no further!
Thank you Madeline for a lovely interview and thank you to all the followers for visiting my little corner of the world!
Write on my friends, write on!