So, I haven’t blogged for a couple of weeks. I asked my friend Laini Taylor for an interview last month about her recently released middle grade novel, Dreamdark: Silksinger, and she graciously obliged. I set the interview aside until her newest book, Lips Touch Three Times was released on October 1st. I’ve had a case of the blogging blahs, due in part to distractions of the draft finishing and SCBWI variety. Long story short, two weeks pass.
And what happened?
Whoop! When I saw the list yesterday you would have thought someone won the lottery by the way I reacted (editor’s note: I can be very animated in real life.). But it’s even better than the lottery, isn’t it? Because lotteries are based on chance, and the National Book Awards are not. They’re based on talent and merit, and Laini and Jim are chock full. They’re sweet, lovely people, too, and I couldn’t be happier for them.
So anyway, I wish I had asked her more questions about Lips Touch! I don’t want to bother her now since I have a feeling her email inbox is a little full, and if I call it might wake sweet little two-month-old Clementine up. Oh, well. Silksinger is equally fantastic. Pick them both up, and I promise you won’t be disappointed.
WT: Tell us about Dreamdark: Silksinger!
LT: Dreamdark: Silksinger is the sequel to my first novel, Dreamdark: Blackbringer, but it can also be read as a stand-alone (of course I recommend reading both!) Both are fantasy-adventure for upper middle grade (ages 8-12), and are sophisticated enough for teen and adult readers too. They’re about faeries, but not dainty flowery faeries. My faeries are tiny but fierce, warriors and devil-hunters with powerful magic.
WT: Your faeries kick ass. What made you want to create this book?
LT: Thank you! I have five books planned out in the Dreamdark series, and I came up with the basic plot of Silksinger when I was about halfway through writing Blackbringer. It changed a lot in the actual writing, but the character of Whisper has stayed true to that initial inspiration — a faerie who can weave silk by singing, and creates flying carpets that way.
WT: How different was your final draft from your first draft? Was the plot consistent? Any surprises?
LT: Since I’m a compulsive perfectionist, I revise as I go, and I never end up with a true “first draft” — not a quick, messy one, anyway. It takes me a long time to get through a “first draft” and each chapter is generally revised many times before I proceed, and I reconceive the plot as I go, then backtrack and even start over. So by the time I get to “the end,” what I have is a draft that is already fairly polished. I’ve tried writing fast, loose first drafts, and it doesn’t really work for me — so far, anyway! Maybe one day!
WT: Huge congratulations on the birth of your lovely daughter, Clementine! How has parenthood impacted your writing?
LT: Thank you! Well, we’re still working all that out :-) Jim and I both work at home, so we have a lot of flexibility with our schedules and can take turns with Clementine. I’m trying to adjust my schedule a little to work at night, which has never been my prime creative time (I get sleepy and dippy late at night). I’ve heard that having kids makes one more efficient, and I’m trying to make that true of myself. Fingers crossed!
WT: You collaborate with your husband, illustrator Jim DiBartolo (recently dubbed Gentle Bad-Ass Bohemian Warrior Daddy by Ben Watson). At what point in the process do you begin working together?
LT: (Love that title, Ben!) In all three of my novels so far that Jim has illustrated, he’s worked from the finished (or almost finished) manuscripts. With the [secret] project we’re working on now, it’s more of a back-and-forth where the text and images are much more closely interrelated and interdependent. We’re having a lot of fun with it!
WT: You have a YA novel, Lips Touch Three Times, released this month. Did you work on Silksinger and Lips Touch simultaneously?
LT: No. I wrote Lips Touch first. I had sent the manuscript of Blackbringer to my editor Timothy Travaglini, and while I was waiting to get my first-ever editorial letter back from him, I began writing short pieces for fun. Three of those pieces were the stories in Lips Touch (I realized I kept writing about kissing, and Jim had the idea that those kissing stories could be a book!). I started writing Silksinger after the major revisions on Blackbringer were done.
WT: You’ve mentioned that you enjoy revising a manuscript. Why?
LT: Ah, revising. First drafts are the hardest part for me: you’re creating something from nothing. What’s harder than that? I love to mess around with language, and my perfectionist brain finds revising very rewarding: taking something that already exists and making it better.
WT: What’s made the biggest impact on your relationship with the writing community? Conferences? Blogging? Why?
LT: Gosh. Both have been hugely important to my writing life. Before I started going to SCBWI conferences and blogging, I felt alone and entirely baffled by the mysteries of publishing. I didn’t have anyone to talk to about writing, and I didn’t know anything about publishing at all. Now, having made so many wonderful friends (not just writers, but also agents, editors, publishers, art directors, etc) both through conferences and online, publishing has been demystified and writing feels like a “real job”. Besides that, the friendships are just so rich, the people are so wonderful, they have made our lives feel larger and more colorful!
WT: What are you working on now? Any more Faeries of Dreamdark?
LT: I absolutely plan to continue the Dreamdark series, but right now I’m at work on several other projects: a YA novel, and something secret that Jim and I are doing together. All I’ll say about that is that it’s for younger kids, and is in a very different style than what we’ve done so far.
WT: What do you enjoy doing when you’re not writing?
LT: Well, the answer to this question has completely changed for me. Before I might have said: reading, baking, painting, getting together with writer friends, and traveling. And that’s all still true! But my #1 favorite pastime now is just cuddling Clementine, preferably with Jim too :-)
WT: What have you enjoyed reading recently?
Thanks, Laini! And Congratulations!!