Today, we have the honour of an interview with author Danielle Harrington. The Diseased Ones, Danielle’s debut YA Fantasy novel, is coming out this weekend (8th February). In the run up to the book’s release, Danielle spared some time for an interview, much to my delight.
Where do you live and has this place (or anywhere else you’ve lived) influenced your writings?
I live in LA. I wouldn’t say LA has directly influenced my writings. It’s definitely the city of dreams, so I’ve thought about that. I think it’s cool that I’m achieving my dreams while living here. But my dreams haven’t been a result of living in LA. I could live anywhere in the world and I would still write!
You have been a force for many initiatives on Instagram, including one with me about praising book promoters back in December. You are also a very positive person, who is always encouraging others. Where did you learn to be so positive, creative and an inspiration to us all (including myself)?
I’ve been acting and singing my whole life. Performance energy translates well onto a social media platform where you have to market yourself. I’ve had so much fun connecting with new friends on my Instagram platform!
As for where I get my joy? Plain and simple. Jesus! I’m a Christian, and I’ve found that my relationship with the Lord allows me to stay positive and focussed even when I have tough days. Plus, my middle name is Joy, and I’ve taken ownership of that and tried to include it as part of my identity!
This blogger: That makes sense on both fronts! First, I had not considered how performance energy is played out onto social media before. That’s a good one! Second, I love that you appreciate how your Faith helps you, and that you have taken ownership of your middle name to make it part of you. As ever, you are an inspiration to us all, Danielle.
You have exciting times ahead with the release of your debut YA novel, The Diseased Ones, coming out next month. What were the books or films that inspired you to write The Diseased Ones? What was it about them that inspired you?
The Giver by Lois Lowrywas a huge inspiration for this novel. That book got me into dystopian literature. Also, I devoured The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins. After that, I was hooked, fell in love with the genre and knew that one day I wanted to write something as fast-paced and exciting as those hit novels.
The idea for The Diseased Ones came about from a mesh of life circumstances. I was in college, had a better sense of storytelling and writing, and had recently developed an obsession with the TV show Heroes. It was the summer before my senior year, and the entire world of this book walked into my head in the span of about an hour. I was like: “Powers? A fresh, futuristic world? Some kind of test? A world devoid of emotions? Two versions of history? Truth and lies woven into a journey of self-discovery? Yes, please!”
And so, the first draft of The Diseased Ones was written four weeks later! The biggest challenge was navigating an already saturated genre. I didn’t want my book to feel tired, already done, or boring. Especially because my premise had serious Divergent and X-Men vibes.
This blogger: I have seen The Hunger Games and can completely understand why you got gripped to the genre following that series. And I am amazed that you got your first draft done in four weeks. I am pleased with myself if I write four chapters in that time period. (*Rolls his eyes.*)
Your work-rate must be incredible. And I absolutely love how you came up with the premise for The Diseased Ones. I can feel the energy and fast-paced nature of the story already. Which leads me to my next question…
On your Goodreads page, I have read some brilliant, 5-star reviews for your book (and there I was thinking it hadn’t come out yet lol). Why do you think readers have liked, and will like, The Diseased Ones?
I hope that readers will love the characters in the book. I think my acting experience helped me to bring the side-characters to life and to write scenes that felt authentic. I love the dynamic between the friend group in this novel and my main character, Hollis Timewire. It’s so fun!
I wish I had a group dynamic in my life that’s like the one I’ve created in my book. Moreover, I hope that the ending of the book will hook readers into my series. So far, it seems that this is the case, so I can’t wait to read more reviews on people’s thoughts about my ending.
This blogger: The enthusiastic and positive way that you speak about your book will grip readers in and of itself to the series. Of that, I have no doubt.
A while ago, I wrote two blog pieces on how to create an engaging main character. Your main character is a sixteen-year-old girl, called Hollis Timewire. First, where did you come up with such a great name? And, second, what are her key characteristics that will make readers want to root for her?
I got the name Hollis off of a British kid’s baking show. One of the contestant’s names was Hollis, and I was like, “I love that!” Timewire was a concoction of my brain while I was writing the book. It came to me about four- or five-chapters in.
I think readers will root for Hollis because she’s the kind of character that makes mistakes and learns from them. I tried to make her real. She’s torn up from her world and thrust into an impossible set of circumstances where she essentially has to learn how to do life all over again.
Hollis struggles in a way that makes her so human, and I love it. You empathize with her and root for what she wants, even though what she wants isn’t always for the best. But that’s what makes her flawed, and that’s what I was going for. I hope readers will connect with her emotional journey and understand why she does what she does.
This blogger: Hollis sounds like a very relatable character. You have done the right thing giving her some flaws. It makes her three-dimensional and, therefore, much more interesting to read.
Which of your characters is the least like you? And why?
Ashton Teel. He’s a big fat bully and so mean! Don’t get me wrong, I had a ton of fun writing him! (I feel like I even let out some of my own pent up aggression.) But he is not like me one bit.
Coming back to the YA genre, in what three ways has the subgenre changed or altered over the last decade or so?
Industry writing rules evolve over the years. Writing tools that were standard and okay to use when Harry Potter was written are no longer used today. For example, all caps in dialogue. That’s a no go if you’re getting traditionally published. It was interesting to attend writing conferences and take editing workshops to learn what was acceptable and what wasn’t.
Dystopian fiction is a rather saturated book genre, so I had to be careful not to take too much from other books that have already been published. This was a difficult and rewarding challenge. I hope I’ve contributed to the genre in a fresh, new way! YA is such a fun genre! It makes the world of imagination available to our youth.
If you could give your younger self some advice about writing, what would it be?
Go to a writing conference. Take workshops. Learn from industry professionals! Don’t work in isolation. Writing can be an extremely isolating discipline because it’s just you, your world, and a keyboard. But getting feedback from people who know what they’re doing is crucial. If you can’t afford to go to a writing conference (save up and go eventually!), there are two great resources: Save The Car Writes A Novel by Blake Snyder and On Writing by Stephen King. These books will teach you how to write, and how to do it well.
I didn’t even know how much work my writing needed until I attended my first writing conference. It felt like I was in school again. I was soaking it all in, writing so many notes that I nearly filled an entire notebook in one weekend.
Truly and honestly, if you want to be a great writer, be a great student. Learn. Learn. And learn! In addition, read books in the genre you write. Get familiar with what’s out there in the market. And grow tough skin! There’s a lot of rejection and waiting in this industry. Things definitely do not happen overnight.
This blogger: That is a lot of brilliant advice, Danielle. I feel like you have learned the hard way with regard to the writing process. Most of the time, it’s the only way! Good on you for being a terrific student and so dedicated to your craft. Please God, you will reap the benefits of what you have sown.
Is Instagram ever your writing kryptonite? Or is it something else?
(*Laughs*.) Sometimes I think I spend too much time on Instagram. But I also consider it to be part of my job. Being a writer is about marketing yourself. I’ve put a lot of time and effort into building this platform, so that I can get the word out about my book.
Sometimes Netflix can be more of a kryptonite than social media. I’ve had to leave my apartment on many occasions to force myself to write instead of watch TV.
This blogger: (*Chuckles*.) This is why I don’t have Netflix lol.
How has writing changed you?
It’s opened me up to a whole new world of friends and connections I never thought I could have. I’m so grateful to the writing community on Instagram and the Southern California Writer’s Conference. I’ve learned a ton and I’ve made some awesome friends.
This blogger: That’s wonderful, honestly. I love your gratitude to all those who have helped and supported you. No doubt, when your friends, family and community read this, they will appreciate your sentiment to them immensely.
When people read The Diseased Ones, what would you like them to gain or learn from it?
First, I hope that readers find it to be a great adventure and escape from their everyday life. I want this book to be entertainment.
Nevertheless, I also want the book to deliver the message that searching for the truth is important, even if there are huge consequences. Furthermore, I desperately hope that every reader will find one character that they love and connect with, whether that’s my main character or one of the side characters.
Lastly, what do you like to do when you are not writing?
I love to sing, hang out with my husband and my family, and to cook. I love being around other people, so I try to make myself busy when I’m not writing, because writing is a very lonely job at times.
End of Interview
That brings our interview with author Danielle Harrington to a close. I would like to thank Danielle for her time, that her positivity is infectious, and that it has been delightful talking to her. I wish her all the best for when her book comes out next week and with her other loves in life, including Netflix (*winks*).
You can purchase The Diseased Ones on Amazon from Saturday 8th February 2020. And it is a must get for those who love the Fantasy and YA genres. Without question!
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