February 19, 2020
Danielle Harrington has just released her debut novel, The Diseased Ones, on the 8 February. A brilliant Sci-Fi novel that had caught my interest when I first saw teasers of it on Instagram, I can say that it’s very brilliant.
I reached out to her and, well, this was the great result!
Me: When did you first find your passion for writing?
D.J: My passion for the pen sparked at a very young age. I began writing at 5 years old. I’ve always enjoyed storytelling, whether it’s recounting the crazy thing that happened at work the other day or conjuring up a new universe full of dark and twisty turns. I have writing projects that I’ve archived all the way back from middle school. Seventh grade was the first time I took a stab at writing a whole book, and I haven’t stopped since.
Me: Are you a plotter or a panster? Do you prefer to plot out your stories before you actually write the scenes or do you just go with the flow?
D.J: I’m a good mix of both. I plot out the major events in a book, but I improvise the details as I’m writing. My favorite thing to pants is dialogue. When I start a new scene, I may have an idea of the ending of the scene (or a specific moment in the scene), but my characters always surprise me. I’ve had some of the craziest lines of dialogue happen (unplanned) because I love to see what happens. It’s like hanging out with your friends. You know them. You love them. You’ve spent time with them before. But you never quite know what will happen next. It’s a blast!
Me: How did you come up with the idea for this book?
D.J: THE GIVER by Lois Lowry was a huge inspiration for this novel. That book got me into dystopian literature. I also devoured THE HUNGER GAMES by Suzanne Collins. After that, I was hooked. I fell in love with the genre and I 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.
Me: What is your writing schedule like? Are you solely focused on writing or do you tend to multitask while writing your stories?
D.J: I’m a multitasking crazy person. When I’m not writing, I’m reading, watching Netflix, playing with my cats, singing, or grading (I’m a high school chemistry teacher). In terms of projects, I’m trying to focus on one at a time. This is, however, a four book series. So the only doubling up I’ve done is on multiple books in this same series. Near the end of my publishing timeline for Book 1, I started rewrites for Book 2 (from its first draft). I love writing at night, but I can plug away during the day time – especially if it’s summer and I’m on break from school.
Me: Have you ever been faced with writer’s block or – the old devil – procrastination? If so, what do you do when you’re faced with these challenges?
D.J: Writer’s block? Yes. Stinking writer’s block. But it’s interesting working with real deadlines now rather than self-imposed ones. I’d like to release each of the books in this series no more than a year apart, so that’s given me a tangible goal. Overcoming writer’s block has been a challenge. I think the best advice I’ve gotten is to just write, no matter what. And even if you only get out a sentence or two, progress is progress. A book is written one word at a time. So when I feel like I can’t, I still do (a little), and that way I’m still working on my project.
Procrastination? No. Never. Not in a million years. When I procrastinate, I get seriously stressed out. I do things well ahead of deadlines to give my mind the space and time it needs to be creative. My creative juices stop when I’m stressed. I can’t even function like a normal human when a deadline is too close. I’ve been that way since I was little – especially in school.
Me: What is your favorite memory in this journey of being an author?
D.J: Two moments stand out: the weekend I went to my first writers conference, and the morning I got my first book contract.
I had always considered myself to be a decent writer, but I was actually just a decent storyteller. My writing needed work. I went to my first conference thinking I was great at writing, and I left realizing that I was going to have to rewrite my entire novel. After taking workshops with industry professionals (editors, agents, and best-selling authors), I had the tools to work on the craft itself. And don’t get me wrong, at that stage I would have said my book was okay, but it wasn’t the best it could be. That was a humbling experience. I’m so grateful to The Southern California Writer’s Conference for making me “suck less.” (That’s their motto).
The morning I got my book contract was one of the greatest moments of my life. After years of writing, two conferences, dozens of workshops, months of querying and pitching my book, several full rewrites, and a ton of rejections, I finally got a yes! It was absolutely magical. I’m so in love with Acorn Publishing. It’s the team I was meant to work with. They’ve taken my baby and made it so damn beautiful!
Me: Do you like including clichés in your stories or would you rather find your own original style in them?
D.J: I try to avoid clichés. I think the best thing a writer can do is aim for clarity in all aspects: world-building, the character’s actions and intentions, the reader’s emotional journey, etc. Everything in a novel should have a purpose. Style is what comes through an author’s voice. No one can write like you can. Sure we all learn the same rules for the craft, but each of us have our own unique flair. It’s what I love about reading!
Me: We all know writing a book is a long process. What part of writing a book do you find the easiest and which part is the hardest?
D.J: Drafting comes easily to me. I wrote the first draft of THE DISEASED ONES in four weeks and the first draft of THE UNSEEN ONES (Book 2) in six. When I can see a story in my head, it just spills out of me.
What’s hardest for me is trudging through a developmental edit. It’s filling in all the plot holes, world-building details, and unanswered questions. You don’t have to worry about this as much in a first draft. But in a final draft, you have to think of everything a reader could possibly wonder and make sure you have an answer ready. That’s what’s nerve-wracking about a series. Not only are you working on individual plot arcs, but you also have to consider the plot arc of the whole thing. That’s why I plan the big moments but let the little ones happen as I write. I want to make sure I do the entire story justice, and it takes an extensive amount of brainstorming to make sure everything fits.
Me: What advice would you give to up-coming writing aspirants?
D.J: 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!), two great resources are SAVE THE CAT 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. Learn! Get feedback from people who have been doing this for a while. In addition, read books in the genre you write. Get familiar with what’s out in the market. And grow tough skin! There’s a lot of rejection and waiting in this industry. Things definitely do not happen overnight.
Me: How does it feel like to finally become a published author?
D.J: It feels incredible! Little middle school me is jumping up and down. I finally did it. I’m proud of myself because I never lost sight of the goal. It took me a long time to get here, but I’m so happy. I learned a lot along the way, and I can’t wait to continue with this career.
Interviewing her has been an immense pleasure. I hope you got something out of this interview, because I sure took home a baggage full of helpful advice.
Thank you D.J. Harrington for the opportunity!
Find her on her Instagram
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