Today we have a special treat for ya’ll! The sweet and charming Empress Susan Dennard agreed to let us pick her brain about her Windwitch, author life, and writing advice.
Only 36 more days until the release of Windwitch guys!
1. We know Windwitch has been one the hardest books for you to write. Can you talk about that experience and the obstacles you had to overcome?
Not to dodge the question, but since it’s such a LONG answer, it might be best to just shoot y’all over to this video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_5mF2QA9z5o
It was a hard book on many levels. On the one hand, I bit off more than I could chew in the year-long turnaround time that’s expected in YA. I also just set way too many challenges for my own writing (like having no villain – why did I think no villain was a good idea again?). And while other authors can handle complicated fantasy just fine, I’m not one of them. I’m a slow writer, and that’s just kind of the way of it (This used to bother me so much! Only recently have I started to accept there’s no shame in being a slower writer.)
Second books, especially, have always been incredibly hard for me. All those cool things I set up in book 1 must now be dealt with, and a clear path forward for the next books must be established. It’s a lot! That said, here’s to hoping book 3 is an easier journey! 😉
2. Which character was the most fun to write? Who gave you the most difficulty?
Merik was hands down the hardest character for me to write. He was hard in Truthwitch, and he was extra hard in Windwitch. He’s just one of those people that seems very cut and dry on the surface – loyalty! martyr! good vs bad! – but a character like that can get dull so quickly. So I knew there was a lot more going on beneath his surface. A lot of preconceived prejudices about people and his own role in the world. Tapping into what those WERE, though, was where I really struggled.
My easiest character is (and was in Truthwitch too) Aeduan. The great thing about him is that he’s very “say one thing but do another,” yet he has no idea that he’s that way. He really doesn’t see that his actions never align with his thoughts/words. So that’s always fun to play with.
3. What was your favorite scene to write in Windwitch? (Without giving away spoilers, of course!)
Oh gosh. Well, there’s one scene that involves a really violent river. Two characters fall into it and have to get out – that was fun to write.
Then there’s a scene that involves…fireflies. And a stream. That is all I’ll say.
What’s crazy (and awesome!) is that I actually love most of this book! HA. After alllll the struggles, I really did find a story that made my heart sing.
4. Out of all of the characters in your Truthwitch series, which character do you feel most reflects you, and why?
So, there is a new point of view character in book 2, and she’s so much like me. I didn’t intend for her to be so similar to me, but her story ended up hitting on a lot of my own personal life experiences – like specifically in her sibling relations, in how she handles a manipulative person in her life, in how she faces the mental health issues in herself and her family, and in how she feels this intense pressure to perform.
5. Can you talk about how your relationship with your agent has grown over the years, and how she has supported you as an agent?
My agent (Joanna Volpe) is fantastic. Our relationship hasn’t really changed since I signed with her in 2011…except, I suppose, in that I’m more familiar/comfortable with how the industry works. So she can leave me to my own devices.
I’m not a particularly communicative author, so we only talk if there’s actually something that needs addressing. (I know other clients of hers prefer regular updates/check-ins, and I know she provides that for them. I’m just not that person.)
What I think I appreciate most about Jo is that we’re both super “try every idea, see what sticks” kind of people, specifically when it comes to promo tactics or new forms of media. It’s nice to know that pretty much any idea I throw at her, she’ll be on board with – and more often than not, she’s already thought of the idea herself!
6. What’s the biggest difference you find between writing your SSAD series, and your Truthwitch series?
Scale! HA! And travel.
On the scale front, the Witchlands is just so much more massive in terms of character cast (5 POVs and counting, plus tens of other important characters) as well as plot complexity. For better or worse, I introduced a LOT of moving parts in Truthwitch – some obviously stated, and others far more subtle – and I need to deal with those before the series’ end.
Also, the amount of travel that I, as an author, now do has quadrupled. I went from having like 10 sales and 5 fans to…well, more. Which is AMAZING because for once, I’m not worried about my series being cancelled or if I’ll be able to sell another book without having to change my name. But it also means there are so many more demands on my time, including touring (which I love) and other cross-country events. I love meeting readers, but I still haven’t adjusted to this new “jetsetter” lifestyle.
7. What’s your favorite part about being an author?
Meeting readers. Hands down. It might seem like a cliché that all authors say, but it’s so TRUE. We spend so much time crafting our stories, and then to finally meet the people who read them – gah, it’s a dream come true! I literally write my books FOR my readers. Not for me, but for YOU. So to meet you, to get to know you, to maybe even get to call you my friend… Oh, it’s just an incredible source of joy for me.
8. Is there any advice you could give to young and future writers?
There’s no rush.
Seriously. I think a lot of aspiring authors feel pressure to finish their book and sell it as soon as possible. But there’s no right or wrong age at which to get published, and (having done this myself) it’s far more important and fulfilling to LIVE YOUR LIFE. To explore/travel/meet people/learn. That stuff will inform your writing far more than any workshop or book on craft.
So try not to stress about how LONG it takes you to write a book or sell it. Try to, instead, enjoy the journey and know that even if it doesn’t happen right away, it will happen one day.
Susan Dennard has come a long way from small-town Georgia. Working in marine biology, she got to travel the world—six out of seven continents, to be exact (she’ll get to you yet, Asia!)—before she settled down as a full-time novelist and writing instructor.
She is the author of the Something Strange and Deadly series as well as the New York Times bestselling Truthwitch, and when not writing, she’s usually slaying darkspawn (on her Xbox) or earning bruises at the dojo.
Sometimes our enemies are also our only allies…
When an explosion destroys his ship, the world believes Prince Merik, Windwitch, is dead. Scarred yet alive, Merik is determined to prove his sister’s treachery. Upon reaching the royal capital, crowded with refugees, he haunts the streets, fighting for the weak—which leads to whispers of a disfigured demigod, the Fury, who brings justice to the oppressed.
When the Bloodwitch Aeduan discovers a bounty on Iseult, he makes sure to be the first to find her—yet in a surprise twist, Iseult offers him a deal. She will return money stolen from him, if he locates Safi. Now they must work together to cross the Witchlands, while constantly wondering, who will betray whom first?
After a surprise attack and shipwreck, Safi and the Empress of Marstok barely escape with their lives. Alone in a land of pirates, every moment balances on a knife’s edge—especially when the pirates’ next move could unleash war upon the Witchlands.
1 – personalized HC of Windwitch + swag
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