Interview with Arwen Elys Dayton

Arwen Elys Dayton author interviewWhen did you start writing?

Around age seven or eight, I had a teacher who asked me to write a one-page story. I thought this was impossible, so she dialed it back to half a page. I wrote with really big cursive, so my story was probably three sentences long–but I finished it. A few days later she asked for three quarters of a page. Then a full page. At some point, after I’d written several one-page stories, inspiration settled over the seven- or eight-year-old me. I’d always been a voracious reader, but at that moment I realized that I myself could possibly originate the sorts of stories I loved to read, full of magic and spaceships and adventure.

What inspired you to write your first story?

The idea for my first real story–the first story that I wrote completely on my own, simply for the pleasure of it–came to me as I was falling asleep when I was about eight years old. I saw a kid on a spaceship, coming to Earth, and I wanted to tell his story. I can’t remember the name of the 100+ page adventure that came out of that idea, but I do remember that it was about a prince from another planet who came here secretly in order to rescue his little sister who had somehow been left on Earth during an earlier trip by their–I’m assuming–rather careless parents. Now that I’m thinking about it, this story had some elements in it that ended up in my book Resurrection.

Which fictional character from books or movies do you most identify with?

Maybe Hermione Granger, because I’m definitely a nerdy bookworm. But I also like to think that, when called upon, I could slam the books shut, and do my part in fighting Voldemort.

If you could invite two other authors to a weekend on a deserted island, who would you invite and why?

From any time period, regardless of whether they are now living or dead? Hmm… Mark Twain, because I’d want to see how he would skewer me and the modern world, and Ray Bradbury, because I’d want him to help me re-imagine the future into something much better than what we’ve got right now.

If you had to spend a month in a cabin in the middle of nowhere, with no internet, phone, or other electronic device – what would you take with you?

Some really long novels, to start. This would be a good time to catch up on high fantasy and Dostoyevsky. What else? Blank pads for writing, as well as hiking and fishing gear, of course. Long walks without fear of interruption–sounds like heaven.

If you could move to any fictional place you’ve ever read about, not written about, where would you move?

My name is “Arwen” so naturally I would like to go across the sea to the West to the Undying Lands Tolkien has so tantalizingly dangled in front of all readers of The Lord of the Rings. 

What’s the most important piece of advice you’d give a new writer, other than to write?

Don’t be too critical of yourself or let other people heavily critique you when you’re getting started. The idea is to learn how to take something that is an ephemeral creation in your mind and bring it into the world in the form of words. It may take a while for that skill to develop and for your work to flow smoothly. If you expect perfection at the beginning or put too much reliance on other people’s views of your work, you will be carrying around a very heavy a burden when you’re just beginning. 

Which one of your characters do you dislike the most, and why?

I’ll answer this book by book in for the series I’ve just finished. In Seeker, I dislike Quin’s father Briac the most, because he cruelly uses his own daughter and betrays everything she’s been brought up to believe. In Traveler, I dislike Shinobu (even though I love him!) because he takes so many wrong turns. In Disruptor, I dislike Maggie, John’s grandmother, for reasons which will become obvious when you read the book!

Do your characters ever talk to you?

Not so much to me, but they do speak to each other in my head, while allowing me to listen in. In those moments between being awake and falling to sleep at night, my mind is typically taken over by an impromptu conversation between two characters. Occasionally these conversations make their way into a book, but more often they show me who these people are and how they look at the world and each other. They are a sort of conversational backstory that makes the actual story more rich. The complicated relationship between Quin and John in the Seeker books eventually sorted itself out in just such an imaginary conversation.

Do you have a special writing place?

Anywhere where the Internet is not! The hardest part of writing is staying in a quiet, concentrated head space during the “discomfort” of facing a new project and a blank page. It’s really easy to check email, call friends, or “just get a few other things done.” If I remove those options, I find that the discomfort goes away pretty quickly, and soon I’m immersed in my story and it’s taking shape on the page. And that feeling beats just about any feeling you can get from poking around on the Internet.

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