Today I have the pleasure of introducing Debra K. Dunlap to Boston daydreaming… Debra is an author at MuseItUp Publishing. Her debut YA novel, Fallon O'Reilly and the Ice Queen's Lair, released in September 2010. Debra weaves together her education, love of Alaska and experience as a Children’s Librarian to create a hidden world of magic in the far north.
ksm: Debra, thank you for joining me today and answering these questions. It’s great to have you here. My readers are excited to learn more about you and your work. Congratulations on your contract with MuseItUp Publishing.
Debra: Thank you for inviting me, Karen!
ksm: You know I have to ask this, when and why did you start writing?
Debra: I wrote my first “novel” at age twelve using a toy typewriter. The title escapes me, but I had read a book about a group of children who found an underground world. I wanted to find my own underground wonders, so I begged my parents for a typewriter for Christmas. As soon as I unwrapped the gift, I carried it to my room and wrote the entire masterpiece in a day. Thankfully, it’s long lost!
ksm: Please tell me a little about your book.
Debra: Fallon O’Reilly & the Ice Queen’s Lair is the first book in the Magic in the Americas series. Set in the Alaskan wilderness, the book tells the tale of a young girl’s first year of magical education. Together with her wheelchair-bound cousin and new friend from Wyoming, she seeks the source of a great evil in Alaska and fights to protect her school and friends.
ksm: What inspired you to write this book and why did you choose to write this in the YA genre?
Debra: An interviewer asked J.K. Rowling if she planned to introduce any Americans or other nationalities in her books. She replied…if anyone wants to write about American wizards they are, of course, free to write their own book. I started wondering how an American magic school would differ and ultimately, a plot began to unfold. When my oldest son referred to my living room as “the ice queen’s lair,” I had an ah-ha moment and that became the title.
I enjoy both reading and writing in the YA genre. I think as adults bogged down by worries and responsibilities, we forget that the world is a wondrous place. To me, YA literature imparts that sense of marveling at the world. How can one not wake up every morning in awe at a world where you can listen to Ode to Joy?
ksm: Did you do any research for the book and what was it?
Debra: I spent a great deal of time researching before I began writing. As an Alaskan, I am familiar with assorted historical figures and events, but I refreshed my memory on those so I wouldn’t make mistakes! Latin words were next on my list and there’s a great online English-to-Latin dictionary (http://catholic.archives.nd.edu/cgi-bin/lookdown.pl). As my research sources, I use my home library, local public library and the internet.
ksm: They say that books choose their authors. How has writing this particular book affected you?
Debra: It made me terribly homesick for Alaska! Although I live in Wyoming now, I’ve spent most of my life in Alaska. My parents moved from Missouri to homestead in Alaska when I was a baby, so I grew up in the wilderness. It’s a fantastically beautifully and rugged place.
ksm: What do you want readers to take from your writing? What do you want them to understand and why?
Debra: I wrote the book mostly as entertainment, although you will find hints of the importance of family relationships and a portrayal of a few Americanisms. Those things will become more obvious later in the series. In the simplest terms, I think I’d like people to understand that things will always get better. You know, sort of “Don’t worry. Be happy.”
ksm: Longhand or typing? Do you carry a notebook with you all the time?
Debra: Neither! Keyboarding only! We have a typewriter at work and it’s my arch-enemy, a thing of dread. Give me my laptop! I don’t carry a notebook, but I use my Droid for note-taking when I’m away from home and want to jot down ideas.
ksm: Do you consider yourself a full-time writer or do you have a day job? Where do you see yourself in five years?
Debra: I have a full-time job, so I write whenever I can manage the time. I would love to be writing full-time in five years!
ksm: Are you working on any new projects? Can you give us a short preview?
Debra: I’m working on several things, like the second book in the Magic in the Americas series. I recently finished a new novel unrelated to the series. In this novel, a fifteen year-old girl finds herself responsible for sixteen orphaned children when the King’s army destroys her village. I’m also plotting a “boy book,” but that hasn’t been committed to paper yet.
ksm: What is the hardest thing for you as a writer?
Debra: Time, time! With a full-time job, a new fixer-upper house in dire need of remodeling and family commitments, it’s hard to find time for writing.
ksm: Do you have any pearls of wisdom to pass on to aspiring writers?
Debra: Get started! It amazes me that so many people tell me they’ve always thought of writing a book. Just do it! It can’t hurt and you might surprise yourself with a terrific story.
ksm: Can you tell us what your favorite pastime is? (other than writing!)
Debra: There are many things I enjoy, but reading is at the top of the list.
ksm: If you could do anything you’d like, go anywhere in the world without time or money constraints, what would you do and why?
Debra: I’d spend time castle-hopping in Scotland and soaking up the history, partly for pure fun and partly because that’s my ancestry. Next, I’d head to Iceland to ride the horses and read the sagas in the original Old Norse. My list would be endless if I truly had no money or time limits!
ksm: Thanks for sharing your time with us, Debra! How can fans find, follow and friend you?
Debra: Here are a few places:
My blog and website both need updating. I promise I will do it as soon as I can! On Facebook, I am “Debra Dunlap.” People are welcome to email me at: firstname.lastname@example.org .
Thank you so much for inviting me, Karen. I’ve enjoyed answering your questions!
ksm: Fallon O'Reilly is an excellent read! Here's the buy link for everyone.