Editor Christine interviews author Danielle Ackley-McPhail
Copyright © 2002Christine Morgan
1. When did you know you wanted to be a writer?
There was no knowing, it just was. I started out very young as an avid reader and at some point I just started jotting down stories and poems of my own. Of course, English class helped a lot, especially when they got past the grammar and moved into creative writing. And the reports... my reports always had a certain flair, even in grade school.
It got to the point where I was creating my own chap books. In junior high (middle school, to some of you out there) I was an aid for my Science teacher during a free period and it got to the point where if he had something he had to do that required concentration, the first thing he would say to me was "Put them away, I have to think about something else right now." At that time I was predominantly into poetry...deep poetry : ) Well...deep for a thirteen-year-old. That young I didn't have the patience or the dedication to really do much with my fiction. I would start something and then lose interest after a while because, face it, there is a lot of effort that goes into keeping things straight and making sure all the ends are tied up when all is said and done.
I think the true sign that I was going to be a writer, though, was when at about twelve or thirteen I found myself "writing" stories in my head, supposedly to put myself to sleep. I would take whichever book was my favorite at the time and write myself into a continuing storyline based on that book.
2. What were some of your favorite books as a child?
Well, when I was just learning to read someone my mother worked with gave her a bunch of children's books for me. Now, for some reason they gave me duplicates and even knowing that I would sit there and read through the entire stack. My first ever favorite book that I can remember was the Little Drummer Boy. Once I was introduced to the library, though, that quickly changed. There were numerous favorites then: All of the Nancy Drew and Hardy Boys books, all of the Trixie Belden mysteries that I have read (anyone out there with copies of these they want to get rid of...let's talk!), a pioneer set book entitled Wait for Me Watch for Me, Eula Bea, and The Outsiders. Whew! Is that enough, or what? : )
3. Whom would you say is the biggest influence on your work, and why?
Well, I am sure this isn't the answer you were expecting, but my mother...she is the one who first brought me books from the library, and then set me loose on it myself. She never put a limit on how many books I could take out, or how many times I could go back, and from time to time I even dipped into her own collection, even back when I was young enough I shouldn't have understood half of the words. I can still remember the smell of my first local library, I miss it...
4. What sort of education or experiences helped you get ready to write?
Mostly the above. I devoured every book I could get my hands on. Used all my allowance to by from the book club fliers they used to hand out at school. My first fifteen years I read more than I ever did anything else. Ever since I could remember I have been in the advanced, honors, and gifted categories for any English class I took, from grade school right up to college. It also didn't hurt that I found mythology nearly as fun to read as my recreational selections.
5. Will there be a sequel to Yesterday's Dreams, and if so, what can you tell us about it?
Ah... Not only is there a sequel, but it is nearly done. The title is Tomorrow's Memories and it picks up literally where Yesterday's Dreams lets off. I tie up all those tantalizing loose ends I left, and I also dangle a few more subplots before you. All of the characters from the first book reappear, plus a handful more. They are still fighting, though they do not know it, their bitter enemy...the one who has now taken the kid-gloves off. Kara is learning what it is like to straddle two worlds, while trying not to get split up the middle, and the threat escalates as Olcas is joined by one of his brothers. Oh yeah... and this one is definitely going to be longer!
6. When did you become interested in Irish history and legend?
I have always been interested in world mythology as a whole, and likewise I inherited a fierce pride in my Celtic heritage. Combine the two and you would have to be surprised if I didn't. I can't say precisely when, it's just always been there.
7. Was there a particular myth that most captured your imagination?
The Tuatha De Danaan as a whole fascinate me. It is hard to pick just one myth, though perhaps it would be how Cuchulainn came by his name (his birth name was Demna). There are so many rich tales in Celtic mythology, and for the most part even the fantasy followers are not aware of them because most popular fiction ignores the legends and just takes the concept of elves and puts it in whatever context suits their purposes. I feel the original myths add such depth and meaning to the most subtle references, it is a pity to not draw on that resource. Ironically, those that draw most steadily from the actual legends are the romance and historical romance authors
8. What kind of research did you do to prepare for Yesterday's Dreams?
Mostly I researched as it was needed, rather than putting in an intensive effort at the beginning. there were a couple of books I had at home on Celtic myth and legend, plus a Dictionary of Irish Mythology I bought. I read the books cover to cover, the Dictionary never leaves my side when I am writing at home, and for everything else I searched the net as needed.
9. What's your 'writing routine' like? Do you have a set time and place, habits, music, etc.?
I write anywhere, anywhen... at first it was mostly at work, or at home afterwards and on the weekends, then I started taking a steno pad on the train, only then I would have to come home and transcribe all I'd written...when I could have been writing more! That was when my fabulous husband really made mega brownie points...he bought me a PDA, now I even catch myself writing as I'm walking...in bed, with the lights out...at meals! The madness never ends!!! Of course, this is why the sequel is nearly done... I have written over 50,000 words just in the month and a half that I've had it.
10. What can you share about the process of going from manuscript to published book, and what's your experience been like working with your publisher?
Ah... now this is a tricky question. I am sure, as any small press author will tell you, there are big differences between a major publishing house and one that is just starting up, or even one that has been around for a while but stays nice and cozy. The biggest difference is budget. With a small press, there is no budget and little staff. That means that every process takes longer; negotiation, editing, design...the list goes on. The other important thing that goes hand in hand on this is promoting...that budget is pretty small too so for me, I have put more effort into self promoting than I ever did in the writing. It is an enriching experience and gives me a greater understanding of the entire process (which is saying a lot since I actually work in publishing...you know as the job that actually pays the bills...) I missed a lot of opportunities in the learning process of self promoting, but the experience will serve me well with the next book.
11. What advice would you give to aspiring writers?
Be prepared to wait at every turn. Patience will be more important to you than inspiration, both before and after the book is written and published.
12. Do you write full-time or hold down another job, and if, so, what?
Ironically enough, I have worked in publishing for the last eight years. Currently I am a "Reprint Production Manager" at Random House. For those of you that don't know what that is, the important part is that it is equivalent to "No, I can't help you get published by Random House." Sorry...that had to be said, though I am sure the quick individual will already realize that the logo on the spine of my book is also not a Random House imprint. Okay, more seriously, I work in a production capacity, and my responsibility is to order reprints of books that have sold out and make sure those reprints run smoothly...even if I have to use a steamroller to do it.
13. How does your family respond to your being an author?
To say they are thrilled would be an understatement... though it almost didn't happen because I nearly didn't survive long enough to get into print...I made the mistake of giving them all partial manuscripts so they could see how it was going and they all wanted to kill me...my saving grace is that they wanted to find out what happened even more ; )
14. What other interests do you have?
You mean there is something out there other than writing and books? Sorry... I knew that. Well, I am really into cats, movies, crafts, and role-playing.
15. Where do you get the inspiration for your characters and settings?
Most of my characters write themselves. I will end up with a vague concept, or even just a name, and the characters develop. On rare occasion I will actually have a person in mind when I work on one, but not usually. At most I have to think of what I want their hair and eyes to be, but that is all.
With the settings, if it is someplace I've been, I try to bring in the local color. If I haven't been there, I try and include things people expect to be there. The hardest to do is the fantasy settings, like the rath below the pawnshop. How do you one) make it distinguished and different from the area surrounding it, and two) how do you create faeryland without it sounding just like someone else's faeryland? That is really tough : )
16. What is your long-term goal as a writer?
That no one ever forget my name, or at least the names of my books. To continue telling the tales there are to tell, for they are endless. To eventually see a royalty check where they are forced to put more than two digits before the decimal...a few commas would be nice, at that.
17. If you could have a private luncheon with any writer from history, whom would you choose?
Notradamus, I want to know his secrets...
18. If you could have a luncheon with any fictional character, whom would you choose?
Ouch! That is a tough one...but to be completely truthful... it would have to be Beag Scath. Really, there is more going on there than even I know, and I'd love to hug him just once : )
19. What do you foresee when it comes to the fantasy genre?
Well, it could go two ways. We could see a lot of the Tolkienesque realities as that is where everyone's attention is rivited a the moment. But you could also have a lot of Harry Potter wanabees out there. I myself am going to stick with the modern-day fantasies laced with Celtic mythology, and hopefully someday someone will mimic me.
20. What recognition has your book received since its release?
I have found out that I have been nominated for both the Compton Crook Award, and the James Tiptree Jr. Award. I won't find out until next year what the final results are, though.
21. What's the strangest question you've ever been asked about your writing or your book, and what did you answer?
Well, there really haven't been any strange questions about the book/writing, but I was asked in a recent interview what was the one item always in my fridge...of course, I never can stop at just one so I told them Kaluha, olives, crushed garlic, and bacon. Now, on my own I will tell you the one thing always in my freezer--or at least in the last year--is my bottle of Tequila, and it will come out once a year until the bottle is done. Of course, given that I live and work in NY, it was half empty when it went in there, 9/11/2001.
I'd like to make a comment about this article.
This page has been visited times.