Happy Halloween! Today, I’m interviewing Madeline Dyer, which is appropriate because she loves everything spooky. Here’s a bit about her.
Madeline Dyer lives in the southwest of England and holds a BA honours degree in English from the University of Exeter. She has a strong love for anything dystopian, ghostly, or paranormal, and can frequently be found exploring wild places. 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 emotions is hunted down, and a culture where addiction is encouraged. Madeline’s second novel, Fragmented, released in September 2016, and she has a fantasy short story forthcoming in a charity anthology in April 2017, raising money for Lift 4 Autism.
D.R.- Who is your favorite character of all time and why?
M.D.- I think I’ll have to say Jane from Jane Eyre, mainly because I love Victorian gothic/sensation novels, and Jane is such a great protagonist. She’s strong and knows what she wants.
D.R.- What book do you recommend the most?
M.D.- Hmm, this is tricky! And it also depends on which books I’ve recently read. When I was at University, I was constantly recommending Villette (Charlotte Bronte) and Mary Barton (Elizabeth Gaskell) to everyone. But I also really love The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo (Stieg Larsson) and I recommend that one a lot now (it was actually on my University reading too, but during my very last term). And I recently read Girl In Pieces by Kathleen Glasgow and that’s always top of my lists for book recs!
I’m not sure which of those titles pops up more in my recommendations!
D.R.- How do you get ideas for stories?
M.D.- From all around me!
The idea for Untamed (the manuscript that became my debut novel) was sparked by a scene from the music video for “La La La” by Naughty Boy ft. Sam Smith. It was the scene where what appears to be a human heart is being sold at a market, and I just thought: what if the things a human heart symbolizes—love, lust, etc.—could also be bought at a market, as easily as food and clothing? Shortly after that, the idea of chemical emotions (the augmenters in Untamed) evolved, as did my main characters, and the plot.
D.R.- Which genres do you write and what’s your favorite one?
M.D.- I mainly write in the fantasy, science fiction, and dystopian genres—I just love speculative fiction—but I also dabble a bit in thrillers. My favorite genre varies a lot, and it also depends on what I’m currently writing. At the moment, I’m in the dystopian zone, so that one comes out on top.
D.R.- What do you do if you see your idea has already been done?
M.D.- Well, many people say there’s no such thing as a completely original idea. I read somewhere that all plotlines fit into seven different concepts—that essentially there are only seven different ideas, seven stories. And you do see ideas being done over and over again (you know, the same tropes that come up many, many times—but are also so popular with readers).
The thing is that each writer approaches his or her idea differently, even if it is the same—or similar—idea to someone else. You could ask five different writers all to write a forbidden romance with aliens, and you’d end up with five completely different novels. The main characters would be different, and they’d have different goals, motivations, and backstories. The subplots would be different, and so would the worldbuilding. Each book would be an individual story, even if it has the same, very basic premise.
So, I don’t think seeing that your idea has already been done is a problem, because you’ll do it differently. It hasn’t already been written like how you would write it. One of my writer friends even found a book that appeared to be really similar (going by the back cover copy) to a manuscript she was working on. Yet, once she read it she found it was completely different and hers was going in a vastly different direction.
And look at how popular (and different) fairy tale retellings can be! Yet, they’re all derived from the same idea. For me, the excitement is in the execution of the idea. It’s about how you tell an idea and where you take it, rather than just the idea itself. And anyway, you can always combine multiple ideas and surprise yourself (and readers) with unexpected plot twists. Or take an idea or trope that’s traditionally found in one genre and throw it into another. Or both.
D.R.- What’s the most unexpected thing that’s ever inspired you?
M.D.- Hmm. This is a tricky one because I get inspired all the time by pretty mundane things. Just seeing the way the light catches a saucepan can make me think about a new detail I could put in a manuscript, and then that in turn can put me in the writing zone and inspire me to write a couple of thousand words once I’m there.
I also get inspired a lot by conversations that go on around me. Particularly in supermarkets…
D.R.- What’s your best writer’s block buster?
M.D.- I’m one of those people that doesn’t really believe in writer’s block. Sure, I have days where I don’t feel inspired, or don’t want to work. But writing is my job and my calling. And once I’ve sat down with my manuscript for twenty minutes or so, I’m usually able to get into the zone and write, regardless of how I initially felt.
D.R.- What’s the best advice you’ve gotten about writing?
M.D.- To write the story that you want to write. You have to feel it. It has to be important to you.
If you write the story someone else wants you to write, you might not feel it. And if you don’t, how can you expect readers to?
D.R.- Tell me about the biggest surprise your own character, story, or setting has given you.
M.D.- I think the biggest surprise one of my characters has given me actually happened rather recently. I’ve been drafting the third book in my Untamed Series, and a huge thing happened. But I can’t really say much, because of spoilers. Sorry! But it had me on the edge of my seat, tingling, and wanting to discuss it with someone.
D.R.- Tell us about your plans or ideas for a new-to-you genre in the future.
M.D.- Well, at the moment, I’m working on my third draft of a thriller manuscript, so I hope to have this completed soon and be querying it.
But I’ve always wanted to write a YA contemporary too, so maybe that’s in the future too.