Summer Splash Book Blog Tour ~ Author Interview ~ MADELINE DYER
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When did you first realize that you wanted to be a writer?
Ooh, now this is a hard one. I’ve always loved writing. I remember at school when I was about eight or nine we had to write a short story in class. The first lesson we had to write it by hand, and then the second lesson was for typing it up. During the typing lesson, I began rewriting my story as I typed it—which got me in a bit of trouble with my teacher because I didn’t end up with a finished typed version by the end of the lesson. And I couldn’t really understand why I wasn’t allowed to edit and rewrite parts—or why no one else in my class was. I could see parts of my work that I really wanted to change, so I did it. So, I guess that was the first time when I actively engaged in the writing and editing process, even though I technically wasn’t allowed to do so.
After that, I started handwriting some stories at home, and found that I really loved writing. And I suppose it was at this point that I realized I really wanted to be a writer. My parents were very encouraging, but many of my teachers weren’t. In secondary school, many of my teachers laughed at my ambition to be a writer—one even told me I’d be more suited to being a carpet-fitter! But, despite that, I kept writing, and, aged sixteen, I had my first short story accepted for publication. Three years later, I signed my first book deal with a publisher and it was then that I absolutely knew I had to be a writer, no matter what. Writing is part of me and I have to do it.
Do you write in a particular genre or do you like to bounce around to different ones? Is this / are these the genre(s) that you also like to read ?
I mainly write dark speculative fiction; a lot of my work has a dystopian angle as I like engaging with the “What if?” questions, while exploring human nature and the negative effects different societies can have. But I also have a strong love for fantasy and anything set in the prehistoric era, and I write that sort of stuff do. I especially love writing about different fantasy cultures.
I read in a much wider range of genres than I write in. I absolutely love crime fiction and detective stories—and I tried writing in these genres once, but my narrative style just didn’t work. So I stick to writing dark speculative fiction, but read a variety of things.
Do you have a favorite genre to write?
I think I’ll have to go with the dark dystopian genre.
Do you have a favorite genre to read?
At the moment, I love psychological thrillers and have just finished two novels by C. L. Taylor in quick succession.
What books have most influenced your life?
Two of the books that have most influenced me writing-wise are The Clan of the Cave Bear by Jean M. Auel and Mrs Dalloway by Virginia Woolf. I read Auel’s book when I was about fourteen or fifteen, and it really fuelled my desire to write. I read Mrs Dalloway during my third year of my degree when I was studying a module on Virginia Woolf, and I really loved her narrative voice and the stream-of-consciousness style. I’m not really sure how it’s influenced my life, but it’s an important novel to me which is why I’m including it here.
What author has most influenced your life?
Hmm. Another tricky question! I think I’ll go with A. A. Milne. As a child, my dad read all the Winnie-the-Pooh stories to me (and he did all the voices!) and I still love these stories now.
Do you have a favorite book or series from another author?
I love anything by Richelle Mead!
What do you like to do when you're not writing?
I’m quite a creative person, and writing is only one part of my creative side. When I’m not writing, I like to do art—I’ve recently started training as a polymer clay artist.
My other big love is for animals. I live on a farm where we’ve got several Shetland ponies, guinea pigs, fish, a cat, and a rabbit. So I love being with them.
When did you write your first book and how old were you?
I wrote my first full-length novel four years ago, when I was seventeen. The first draft took me around four months to write, and I edited it for another six months. It ended up being 137,000 words. I haven’t done anything with this book yet as it needs a lot more editing and rewriting, but it—and the next two books I wrote—really shaped my writing and helped me be able to write the book which eventually became my debut novel.
What is your writing process?
I try to write my first drafts as quickly as possible, and I only give myself a rough outline so as not to stifle my creativity. After writing seriously for a couple of years, I can now manage around 70,000 words in a month. Once I’ve got a first draft done, I’ll then leave it for a month (during which I’ll work on another manuscript).
After my first draft has sat for a month, I’ll go back to it and assess it with fresh eyes. I’ll make a list of all the things that don’t work, and then start on some developmental and content revisions. Usually this involves overhauling the manuscript completely, cutting out characters, writing new ones, shifting the structure and timeline, and adding in a load of foreshadowing. It’s also at this stage that I do some more work on characterisation (though generally, I know my characters before I even start the first draft), and makes sure that my characters feel real.
Then it’s onto more finer editing, mainly looking for continuity errors and obvious mistakes and grammatical errors, before sending to my beta-readers and critique partners. Once I have their feedback, I do another content edit and rewrite—repeating the above steps, in accordance with their comments—and then make any other big changes that I feel are necessary. After that, I do the final pre-sub edits until I’m ready to query my publisher with it.
And, of course, once a manuscript is acquired, there are loads more rounds of edits to go through with in-house editors!
Do you have a writing routine?
I try to get at least 2000 words written in the morning. Then I’ll do admin work—marketing, promoting, answering interviews, replying to readers’ messages and emails—before possibly getting another writing session in. On a good day, I write about 5,000 words (or the equivalent if I’m editing). Once, I managed to write nearly 14,000 words in a day!
How long does it take you to write a book?
This really varies depending on the manuscript I’m working on, and other time commitments. For example, I wrote the first draft of the book that became my debut novel, Untamed, in less than a month in June 2013. I then edited it in September 2013, and again from January 2014 to March 2014. I signed with Prizm Books at the end of June 2014, but in-house edits didn’t begin until January 2015 and they lasted until March/April 2015. The book then released on 20 May 2015. So, from start to finish, you could say two years. But I guess there were only nine months during that time when I was actively working on Untamed. The other months were spent working on three other manuscripts, and I was also studying for my degree in that time too.
For my second contracted book, Fragmented, (sequel to Untamed), I wrote the first draft in July 2013 (straight after I wrote Untamed’s first draft) but didn’t start the rewriting (and it was massive rewriting) until June 2015. In many ways, I started from scratch at this time as Untamed had changed quite a bit during its editing, and so my original draft for the sequel didn’t really work. But I worked on Fragmented from June 2015 until November 2015, and my publisher signed it in January 2016. We’re just about to start on in-house edits for that one—and it’s scheduled for a September 2016 release.
Where do you get your ideas or inspiration for your books?
There’s no one place I go to get my ideas. They just come at me in everyday life. Sometimes, it’s a snippet of a conversation that I overhear in a shop that inspires a scene which evolves into a huge idea; other times, walking amongst nature fills me with so much inspiration, and the strangest ideas hit me—ideas that aren’t really to do with the landscape I’m walking in. But I find walking is also a great way to mull over ideas and fragments of inspiration—it really helps free up my imagination and allows me to engage with my creativity more.
I also read widely, and there’s nothing like reading a great book to make you feel inspired to write and create.
What does your family think of your writing?
They’re really supportive! When my first book released, they were so proud.
Do you have any suggestions to help others become a better writer?
Yes! Read as much as you can, and read outside the genre you wish to write in. Also, concentrate on finishing something. I advise not to start editing until you’ve got a finished draft, as quite often if you start editing before you complete it, you’ll never actually finish it. And trust me, the feeling you get when you finish something is incredible!
But also: don’t be hard on yourself. And don’t compare your writing to your favorite books. Remember, comparing your first draft to the final version in a published novel is a fair comparison. So, just concentrate on writing, and congratulate yourself for every word (or page, chapter, draft) you write. And it doesn’t matter how bad or messy your writing is to start with—if you haven’t written anything, then you haven’t got anything to edit or rewrite later. So just get those words down on the page.
What is the most surprising thing you have heard from your fans?
A few months ago, I heard from a girl who wanted to do her school project on me! That was pretty cool—and really unexpected—and we chatted about Untamed and my writing processes a lot.
What's next for you/What are you working on now?
I’m currently working on book three in the Untamed Series (it’s a first draft at the moment), and also drafting a new secret manuscript that I can’t say much about yet. In-house edits for Fragmented are about to begin too, and I also have a second draft of a YA fantasy manuscript to work on as well. So, it’s looking like the next few months will be super busy for me!
What is your preferred method to have readers get in touch with or follow you (i.e., website, personal blog, Facebook page, here on Goodreads, etc.) and link(s)?
I don’t really have a preferred method—I love it whenever any reader gets in touch with me and however they choose to contact me doesn’t really matter (so long as they don’t turn up at my front door—because that might be a bit creepy…)! Social media-wise, I can be found at @MadelineDyerUK on Twitter, Instagram, and Pinterest, and my Facebook page is http://www.facebook.com/MadelineDyerAuthor. I also have a goodreads profile here: https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/7244204.Madeline_Dyer And my website, including my blog, is at http://www.MadelineDyer.co.uk/
Tell us about your journey in becoming traditionally published/Did you always want to go that route?
My journey to becoming traditionally published involved a lot of query letters, a lot of requests to see partial manuscripts, and quite a few requests for full manuscripts. In the end, I had four offers on Untamed, but this one was the fourth novel that I wrote. I tried querying two of the others (and later received an offer on a revised version of the second one), but these ones just weren’t ready to be published—but writing them was crucial to my development as a writer. Without them, I couldn’t have written Untamed—or any of my later books.
Is there anything you'd love to share with us about yourself?
I have a strong fear of skeletons—and this fear was recently made worse when I had to sit next to one during a hospital appointment, and its arm and jaw suddenly fell onto me!
What would you say is your favorite thing about becoming an author?
I love that I get to spend days and days wrapped up in my imagination, telling stories—and that readers want to read them. It’s an amazing feeling.
What has been your toughest criticism given to you as an author? best compliment? How did you handle both?
I’ve had a lot of people criticize my writing because of my age, assuming that because I was nineteen when I got the book deal with a publisher for Untamed, that my book can’t be very good as I was only barely an adult then. But most of this age-orientated criticism is from people who haven’t even read my book, so I just try to brush it off. I actually don’t talk about my age much when discussing my books online because of this! (And when I signed with Prizm Books, they did not know my age).
I think the best compliment I’ve had was from a complete strange who emailed me and began to fan-girl for ages about my book. It was so lovely to see that a book I had written had had this effect.
Is there anything you find particularly challenging in writing?
Sometimes, I find it hard to motivate myself to write. I have days where I hate writing—but at the same time, I hate not writing. The best days are when I start writing and I forget that I am writing—to me, I’m just telling myself the story and I have to know what happens next. So, those are the days I aim for, and the times when this doesn’t happen can be challenging.
What is the most fun part of writing?
The first draft! These are my most creative drafts as I only prepare a rough outline beforehand, so as I write I discover all the details of the world and who these characters are and why their stories need to be told.
Can you tell us 5 random things about yourself?
Ooh, I don’t think I’ve ever been asked this before! So, five random things: I’m left-handed, wildebeest are one of my favorite animals, I’ve come face-to-face (literally) with a wild puma in my ponies’ field on more than one occasion, I have a rare genetic condition that means everything in my body is too stretchy because of faulty collagen (so my joints dislocate a lot!), and I love teddy-bears.
Is there anything you'd like to say to your fans/readers?
Just a huge “Thank you!” for supporting me and buying and reading my books. It honestly means the world to me.
1. Favorite Food: Pizza
2. Favorite Color: Green
3. Favorite Animal: Ponies/rabbits/cats/guinea pigs/fish/wildebeest (I can’t choose one!)
4. Favorite Book: The Clan of the Cave Bear by Jean M. Auel
5. Favorite Movie: Divergent (though it changes a lot!)
6. Favorite Drink: Peppermint tea
7. Favorite Restaurant: I haven’t really got one as I don’t like eating out!
Author: Madeline Dyer
Series Name/#: Untamed Series, #1
Page count: 314 pages / 95,000 words
Retail price: Paperback $16.95, eBook $6.99
Madeline Dyer lives in the southwest of England, and has a strong love for anything dystopian, ghostly, or paranormal. She can frequently be found exploring wild places, and at least one notebook is known to follow her wherever she goes. Her debut novel, UNTAMED (Prizm Books, May 2015), examines a world in which anyone who has negative thoughts is hunted down, and a culture where addiction is encouraged.
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.
How long did it take to write the book?
The first draft took less than a month to write, but I worked on rewrites and edits for a further nine or so months (spread across two years).
What inspired you to write the book?
The idea for Untamed was sparked by a scene in the music video for “La La La” by Naughty Boy ft. Sam Smith, where the camera shows some kind of market and what looks like a human heart is being sold. That really grabbed my attention, and I thought about all the things a heart could represent—the emotions and things it symbolizes really stood out to me. And then I thought: what if someone could buy their emotions at a market, just as they buy food and clothes? And, thus, the idea that became Untamed began…
Did you do any research, and if so, what did that involve?
I did so much research! A few of my research areas were: how to survive in the desert; Nigerien culture; and how guilt affects people psychologically.
What do you hope your readers come away with after reading your book?
If readers come away and they’re been entertained having read my book, then I’m happy. Untamed focuses heavily around the consequences of addiction, the nature of emotions, and how far family loyalty goes in everyday life—and life when you’re pushed to breaking point—so if my book encourages readers to think further about these topics then I’m very happy!
Where can we go to buy your book?
Great question! Untamed is available in paperback and ebook format from most major retailers, including Amazon, Barnes and Noble, The Book Depository, Waterstones, IndieBound, iBooks, Kobo, and Books A Million.
Signed copies can also be purchased directly from me, through emailing me at MadelineDyerAuthor [at] yahoo [dot] co [dot] uk.
Any other links or info you'd like to share?
Yes! Here are the links for Untamed.
The Book Depository: http://www.bookdepository.com/Untamed-Madeline-Dyer/9781610409186
Excerpt from book:
The cloth is heavy over my face. Some light filters through it. I can see the flashing green and red lights of the box high up on the ceiling. It’s some sort of power-base, I’m sure. Before they brought the cloth, I saw lots of metal components and wires hanging from it, stretching to the corners of the room. My brother, Three, would love to examine it.
The cloth over my face gets tighter. It presses against my nose, trying to force it down. I can feel their hands all over my body, pushing me onto the platform with cold fingers. I know better now than to resist. But they don’t believe me. They aren’t taking chances, they say.
“Join us willingly.” It’s the same man. Always the same man who speaks. Raleigh. The one who called me a fighter. The one who promised he’d break me.
Katya’s a lost cause. She went willingly.
“No,” I gasp. My word tangles in the cloth. I blink and my lashes drag against the material.
“Very well.” He’s smiling. I know he is. His voice is always lighter and amused-sounding when he’s smiling. “Very well, indeed.”
The water slams against me.
Do you have a Favorite Quote from the book or series?
Yes! This is one of my favorite bits from Untamed… it’s actually the last line of this bit that’s my favorite, but I’ve given you part of the scene so it makes sense!
“There was a bison,” I say as I stroke the terrier. I don’t know why I say it.
My father’s head snaps toward me. He breathes heavily. “A bison?”
“This is ridiculous,” Three moans. He’s already getting back into his bed, pulling the blanket up around him and over his head.
“A bison is most definitely not ridiculous.” My father looks at me sternly. “Where was this bison?”
“In the sky.”
“Most definitely ridiculous.”
What is in store next for you?
Book two, Fragmented, is scheduled to release from Prizm Books on the 7th September 2016, and there’ll be two further books in this series to make a total number of four. I can’t really give away any hints at the moment, but I will say that the tone in book two gets substantially darker as the stakes get higher…
Tell us about your cover - why you chose that concept and who the artist is.
I love my cover! It was designed by B.S. Clay, one of my publisher’s cover artists. I just love the finished result. It sums the book up perfectly. You’ve got the reds and oranges that reflect the hot desert landscape, but also the danger the main character, Seven, is constantly in. Plus, the oranges have a sparkly feel to them, mirroring the stars and the magic of Seven’s Seer dreams.
And then the girl on the cover is always watching you—just as the bison in Untamed is always watching everyone, and all the people are constantly watching each other trying to work out who is Untamed and who’s Enhanced. There’s a lot of watching going on!
But there’s also a universal feel to the girl too, as it’s just artistic impression of her face—she could be anyone. She could be Seven, or she could stand in for all the Untamed people.
Why should we read this book (or series) and what sets you apart from the rest? / What makes your book/series unique?
My Untamed Series has a strong focus on addiction which many readers have commented on, and I believe makes my book a little different. It’s also a dystopian story with no love triangle!
Untamed has also received some great editorial reviews, so you should totally read it because of them!
"This has to be one of the best dystopians I have read this year - If you're a dystopian fan add this to your shelf." -- Birds That Love Words
"I really couldn't fault Madeline Dyer... Untamed is a fantastic dystopian survival story, filled with twists." -- The Literature Hub
"From the first line, Untamed pulled me in. This is the sort of book that is incredibly difficult to put down... 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.
"Untamed is very captivating and I found myself racing through it... the imagery Madeline has created is brilliant." -- A Secret Book Lover
"The fast-paced action of Untamed really drew me into the story... readers who enjoy dystopian novels would enjoy this book." -- The Story Sanctuary
Who would you recommend this book to and what should readers be aware of (any warnings or disclaimers)?
So, Untamed is marketed as a YA/adult crossover—or as “edgy YA”. There are a few torture scenes (though these are not explicit nor graphic), but there is a lot of violence. Having said that, I know of 12 year-olds who’ve read and enjoyed Untamed just as much as older teenagers and adults.
Interestingly, I’ve heard from a lot of adult readers who don’t normally read dystopians, but had heard about Untamed and decided to give it a try. So it seems to have quite a wide appeal, which I’m obviously pleased about.
How did you come up with the title?
Before I even started writing it, I knew this book was going to be called ‘Untamed’. I’m not entirely sure what made me decide to call it at that, and I can’t remember whether I had the title before I came up with the concept of the Untamed people fighting the Enhanced Ones. This book was just always called ‘Untamed’ to me.
How did you pick characters’ names?
Does it sound strange if I say that I don’t really ‘pick’ my characters’ names? Well, I’ll say it even if it does! My characters tend to come to me, already fully-formed and with their own names, so it’s more of a case of me discovering who they are (some can be pretty secretive) and what they’re called—and what other names they might go by—than me deciding that this one will be called X and this one Y.
Fun fact: Marouska (one of the characters in Untamed) wasn’t supposed to be in this book! She was actually in an early draft of another manuscript that I began, and then she just suddenly popped up in a scene and insisted she was going to stay!
Who is your favorite character? Why?
Obviously, I love Seven as she’s my main character. She struggles with self-confidence and a lot of the time feels too intimidated to stand up for herself, especially to the men in her group. But, underneath all this, she has an inner-strength that proves she’s just as strong as the others. She may be quiet, but because she listens to everything that goes on around her, she has an advantage over the others and can often see/work out things that others can’t immediately.
And a lot of readers have loved Seven, calling her relatable and realistic. I’ve had many messages from readers thanking me for making the main character of my book someone like them—someone who’s not always bold and confident—showing how even a quiet person is still ‘strong’.
I also love Corin, one of the other main characters. And scenes with him in are so much fun to write!
What was the hardest part about producing this book?
I think cutting down the word count! During edits with the in-house editor at my publisher, I had to cut out over 10,000 words and I found it super difficult. However, it was needed and I can see now the book is so much stronger.