Interview With Author Jordan Dane
So I had the chance to interview author Jordan Dane. Her YA novel, In the Arms of Stone Angels, comes out in late March, and she’s written several adult novels.
Make sure you add In the Arms of Stone Angels in your to-read pile, because it’s one you won’t want to miss!
Here goes the interview:
The Book Heist: What kind of research did you have to do for In the Arms of Stone Angels?
JD: For Stone Angels, the main research came from the Native American inspirations for the book. I wanted to highlight a tribe that not many people know about, the Euchee. And I got this tribe name from a librarian friend of mine, Susan Johnson, who is in charge of the Native American cultural resources at the Sapulpa OK library. She is a fan of my adult books and had always wanted me to write a story based in Oklahoma. And yes, I listen to my readers. But one of the coolest things about my working with Susan was the inspiration behind White Bird, my half breed outcast American Indian boy. Since I’m part Hispanic, I knew what it was like to face bigotry in all forms. Even as a kid, I recognized it for what it was. So I wanted to create a character who wasn’t full blooded, who straddled a line between cultures, not fitting on either side. And when I was describing my character to Susan, she said, “I know this boy.”
Yes, there is a real Whitebird. He’s a great kid who also graciously allowed me to use his name, because I loved the symbolism of innocence and he helped me research how to make a sweat lodge, for example. The real Whitebird was just released from the foster care system in Oklahoma and is now living on his own. We’re friends on Facebook, in fact. My story is fictional, so please don’t think this poor guy ever was in a mental hospital or was involved in a crime J, but I really admire his ability to survive the struggles in his young life with the optimism and maturity he has. He’s an inspiration in many ways. I recently blogged about him on my YA blog at:
The Book Heist: What was your writing process like?
JD: When you love what you do, it’s hard to call it a process. That sounds too much like real work. As an author, my mind never stops thinking about stories and characters. I can be watching a commercial and I’ll pick up on something that triggers a thought or a line of dialogue or an image I want to describe. I write every day. I take days off at times, but it always feels like I’m missing something if I don’t write, like the lives of my characters are going on without me and I’ll miss something. Writing is a strange addiction that has added so much to my quality of life. I’ve become a better listener. I prefer hearing other people tell me their stories. And I see things every day that make me want to write about it.
Generally, I write every day between the hours of 9-4, although that’s not a hard and fast rule. I take breaks and handle the business end of my job after those hours. I edit what I’ve written every night before I go to bed. I edit, edit and edit as I go along until I’m able to let go of that scene or chapter. So when I’m at the end of my book, I don’t have to go over it again and rewrite draft after draft of it. I’m ready to move on to another story. One of my favorite quotes about writing is “A book is never done. It’s only abandoned.” I can totally see that.
I also don’t plot. I see books unfolding in my head like a movie. And I follow my instincts on how a story should be told. I believe that someone can learn the craft of writing, but it’s the story telling that separates authors and distinguishes them from each other. In my opinion, storytelling is innate and can’t really be taught. It’s instinct. I also like the idea of learning the craft of writing, but then breaking the rules when I see it fits…just for fun. I guess I’m a bit of a rebel like my character Brenna Nash.
The Book Heist: Do you have any advice for aspiring authors?
JD: I LOVE to talk to aspiring authors of all ages. Write, write and write some more. For budding teen authors, I think it’s important to write anything, from poetry to your thoughts and feelings. The roots to a budding author start early and can become rooted very deeply in who you are or will become. That’s the way it was with me. I never forgot my love for writing, from my teen years. At that age, writing is more about self-expression and developing the ways you will think as an adult too. Writing can be a way of exploring who you are. And it’s the same whether you’re an adult or not.
On my adult website, I have a FOR WRITERS page that I post articles on author craft and other topics. I keep this page updated to pay back all the kindnesses other authors have shown me. It’s my way of “paying it forward.” http://www.jordandane.com/writers.php
I have my first sale story posted, plus writer tips on many subjects.
But the best advice I can give anyone is to write every day. The writing is the only thing we can control. It’s what makes us most happy. The minute I decided that I would write, whether I ever sold or not, that was the day I knew I had found a passion that would be hard to deny. I sold not soon after that, but I would still be doing it if that had never happened. I heard a motivational speaker say that he wrote his non-fiction book doing it a page a day. After I heard that, I had no more excuses. I made time for what was important to me. And that’s good advice whether you’re a writer or not.
The Book Heist: What part(s) of In the Arms of Stone Angels did you like writing the most?
JD: I loved “being in” this book the whole time. And when it came to finishing it, I stalled, not wanting to leave Brenna and White Bird. I wanted to know what would come next for them. Now that I’ve created them, they live in my mind. So the flashbacks to how Brenna fell in love with White Bird and remembered him were some of my favorite passages. People remember the past, not like a running video of their life, but they see a color or feel a chill in the air and that triggers a memory or a feeling. For Brenna, seeing a small bird might always remind her of how she met White Bird or nudge at the memory of their first kiss on the day they set the wounded bird free, for example. Through the book I shared the past for her by those types of triggers. What triggers your best memories?
I also loved how Brenna’s perception of her mother changed from start to finish of that book without any scene actually being written from the mother’s point of view. I wanted Brenna to be the judge of her mother’s actions. And I thought it was important to stay in Brenna’s head to do that.
The Book Heist: Will there be a sequel to In the Arms of Stone Angels?
JD: I planted seeds in this story for a sequel. They were deliberate. I wanted the story to feel like it had ended and was standalone in plot, but I wanted small meaty morsels to choose from if my publisher wanted me to write a sequel. We’ll see how this first book goes. I can certainly see a whole world built around Brenna looking for her estranged father and how her “gift” was a legacy from him and his family. And since Brenna talks at the end of the book about finding her own path/destiny to becoming a star in the night sky, I think there are stories that could help her get there. Her strong ties to White Bird and Joe Sunne, the Euchee Shaman, are not accidents. And her connection to the dead is worth exploring. I actually can see a whole series coming from this book. And I absolutely LOVED being in the heads of Brenna and White Bird. Those two have a bond that transcends this life. Wouldn’t it be cool to find out what their connection might be?
The Book Heist: What is your upcoming book, On A Dark Wing, about?
JD: Sixteen year old Abbey Chandler cheats death and lives past her expiration date, but her lucky break comes at a price. And Death has never forgotten. Now, years later, Abbey is riddled with guilt over her mother’s death and the role she played in it. She’s become a loner and her father’s occupation hasn’t helped her DOA social life. Her father is the only mortician in a small Alaska town and he runs his business out of the house she lives in. Bodies are stored in her basement to be planted with the spring thaw in Alaska. Kids call her the ghoul next door, Zombie Queen, Citizen from Cremation Nation, and Necro Girl. She’s heard it all. But when Death comes calling, he sends his black winged messengers to find her. And when her secret crush, Nate Holden, crosses paths with the Angel of Death because of her, his soul is on the bargaining table. And Abbey is the only one who can speak up for him.
I’ll have an excerpt on my website soon for this 2012 book with Harlequin Teen. Below is a sneak peek at the early book jacket summary:
The Book Heist: What made you decide to write for the YA genre?
On a Dark Wing
Harlequin Teen (2012)
The choices I had made led to the moment when fate took over.
I would learn a lesson I wasn’t prepared for.
And Death would be my willing teacher.
Five years ago Abbey Chandler cheated Death. She survived a horrific car accident, but her lucky break came at the expense of her mother’s life and changed everything. After she crossed paths with Death—by taking the hand of an ethereal boy made of clouds and sky—she would never be normal again.
Now she’s the target of Death’s Ravens and an innocent boy’s life is on the line. When Nate Holden—Abbey’s secret crush—starts to climb Alaska’s Denali, the Angel of Death is with him because of her.
Abbey finds out the hard way that Death never forgets.
JD: I loved reading YA books. They are so imaginative and rich in atmosphere…and possibility. I love dark edgy YA and wanted to write stories that were grounded in the teen experience yet force my characters to deal with sometimes life of death situations. So when I was between adult projects, I had a chat with my niece, Dana, who loves dark edgy YA too. She had graduated high school and was about to enroll in college. Before she took off to school, we spent a long weekend playing “what if” games about the book idea I was hatching. We took photos of location shots for the small town. And we came up with inspirational character images and clothing ideas. And we ate a lot of sushi, brain food. In short, the book was an excuse to have fun, but we also created a foundation for the book and got to know each other better in the process. Basically, YA stretches me as a writer. The only thing that limits an author of YA is their own imagination. What’s not to love about that?
The Book Heist: What are some of your favorite authors and books?
JD: I have a list of my favorite reads, but this list is growing all the time. Here’s my latest list of YA books that I loved reading and my take on what they are about.
- THE BOOK THIEF by Markus Zusak – The story of a young German girl during the time of the Holocaust, narrated by Death. An amazing story that the New York Times endorsed as “life changing.” (This book is on the top of my list for a reason.)
- CITY OF BONES, CITY OF ASHES, CITY OF GLASS by Cassandra Clare (the Immortal Instruments series) – An urban fantasy story with incredible world building and wonderful characterizations. Prepare to get sucked in.
- THE HUNGER GAMES, CATCHING FIRE, MOCKINGJAY by Suzanne Collins – A futuristic tale told through the eyes of a young girl in a post-apocalyptic world where the government demands two sacrificial tributes (gladiators, one of each sex) from each of its territories, for a televised reality show fight to the death.
- THIRTEEN REASONS WHY by Jay Asher – It’s the story of a girl who had committed suicide and sent audio tapes to the 13 people who had contributed to her making that decision. (An amazing debut for this gifted author.)
- WINTERGIRLS by Laurie Halse Anderson – This novel is the gripping tale of a girl secretly suffering from an eating disorder as she plummets closer to dying, all under the watchful eye of her well-intentioned parents. (The Queen of Edgy YA)
- IF I STAY by Gayle Forman – After a tragic car accident, a young girl loses her entire family and is in a coma in the hospital, but she’s aware of everything that is happening and must find the will to stay with the living or die and let go.
- THIRTEEN DAYS TO MIDNIGHT by Patrick Carman – A creepy gut-wrenching fantasy. After a fateful car accident where he should have died, a young boy realizes his guardian had given him the powerful gift of invulnerability before he died in that same crash. He gave him the power to survive horrific accidents, and once the boy realizes this ability can be transferred to others to save their lives too, will his newfound skill become a gift or a curse?
- STORY OF A GIRL by Sara Zarr – A young teen girl’s life is changed forever after she’s discovered by her father in a car having sex with a boy. (This is a simple story without a lot of bells and whistles, but it reads like a real slice of life.)
And BTW, a book that I can hardly wait to read is from a debut YA author, Karsten Knight. His book is called Wildfire ( July 2011, Simon & Schuster)
There you have it folks!