Give me a memory about a storm?
My clearest memory of a storm was the Blizzard of 1996. It knocked us kids out of school for at least a week, which was amazing in itself. But the thing I remember most is how high the snow was, lining the driveway. There was too much to shovel the entire driveway, so we did as best we could to clear a walking path. The walls of snow towered beside me, so even in the daytime, I was often in darkness walking the path. Also, the snow was stacked only a few feet below our second floor awning, so I was able to jump into it from my bedroom window. It was one of the best winters of my life.
You have an edgy YA series coming out next year. Tell me a little about it. With Edgy YA, at what point do you have to pull yourself back?
The Darla Decker Diaries begin with the titular character in sixth grade. She’s an outspoken, impatient, and argumentative girl, but she’s also really sensitive and sweet. The character just spoke to me, and in perfect Darla fashion, pretty much demanded that I write her story. The first book “Darla Decker Hates to Wait,” which deals with Darla’s impatience to go on a first date, is due out in May 2014 from Evolved Publishing. The next books “Darla Decker Takes the Cake” and “Darla Decker Shakes the State” will be out several months later.
As for pulling myself back, I’m still just figuring out. I wanted these books to be honest about what it was like to be a pre-teen/teenager, so I make sure to include the dirty stuff. Although sexual acts aren’t yet included in the books, they are mentioned—like kids do. I certainly censored some things, but for the most part, I think the personalities and relationships are realistic, even if certain aspects are negative. I have used my childhood diaries to build this world somewhat, but I’ve also modernized them as necessary. Many of the issues tackled in these books will not be ones I experienced in my childhood, which I’m looking forward to delving into.
Why a YA series?
Man, I don’t know. After the release of three “Dominhydor” books, I said I’d never do a series again. Or at least not for a long time. My only answer is basically what I said before: Darla demanded it. If a character is strong enough to break me like that, she deserves to be obeyed.
We are coming up on the launch of Nanowrimo. Do you have any Nano rituals before the big day starts?
This is only the second year I’ve done NaNoWriMo, so I don’t think I have any rituals—unless outlining like a madman counts as a ritual. I do make sure I’m stocked with dozens of pens, though.
What project do you have in mind and what advice do you have for struggling authors during Nanowrimo out there?
I’ll be writing a horror thriller (possibly erotic) called “The Train Derails in Boston.” It centers on the Malone family, though mostly the matriarch, Rebecca. After she discovers a mahjong set in the basement of the Malone’s new house, her life spins out of control with hallucinations, sexual deviances, and grisly murders. Is the game haunted? Or are Rebecca's problems part of a different game, started decades before she was born?Darla
Honestly, the only advice I can give is to outline prior to November, and to get your ass in that chair. Whether you type or write by hand, you just need to sit down and do it. Make no excuses, use your time effectively, and get those words down.
I suppose my platform is Genre-Jumping, Beer-Swilling, Ink-Addicted Smiley Pie. Really, I just write whatever stories I want and speak honestly to my audience about those stories. I’m a goofball and pretty down-to-earth, but I’m also a professional when it comes to my work. I don’t try too hard to market myself. I feel like my honest and excerpts do that pretty well.
Think in ink: I’ve noticed you have a few tattoos, and I have a feeling some are deeply symbolic. Share one of your tattoos stories?
I joke about it, but truthfully, I do wear book promotion on my sleeve. An illustration of the moon from my book “Danny Marble & the Application for Non-Scary Things” is tattooed on my left forearm. One, I wanted a tattoo to represent my writing (I already had one for Roald Dahl), and two, my husband drew it, so it’s doubly special. Plus, people often ask about it. It’s a great conversation starter, and it’s sold some books for me. Even Peter S. Beagle and Connor Cochran questioned me on it, then wrote down the “Danny Marble” title to look up later. I love all of my tattoos, but the Danny Marble tat is probably my favorite.
Tell me something about your local mythology?
The Snallygaster is a mythical dragon-like creature that inhabits Frederick County, MD, where I live. It’s described as half-reptile, half-bird and apparently has a metallic beak lined with razor-sharp teeth. In some stories, it even has tentacles. Its nemesis is called the Dwayyo, which also lives in Maryland. That’s a hairy, more mammalian creature, I believe. I was unaware of these creatures until a few years ago, otherwise I think I would’ve written about them. I hope a McHugh Snallygaster story pops out soon, though!