Inside the Book:
Title: In the Shadow of the Gods
Author: Rachel Dunne
Release Date: June 21, 2016
Publisher: Harper Voyager
Genre: Fantasy/Action Adventure
What are you most proud of accomplishing so far in your life?
It has to be getting published – I barely let myself dream it would happen at all, much less this early on in my life.
How has your upbringing influenced your writing?
I had a really great upbringing – I was always given the sense that I could do anything I wanted, so never being discouraged from the arts had a huge impact on me. My mom also had a veritable library, so I grew up valuing and loving books.
When and why did you begin writing?
I wrote my first story when I was about three: I dictated it to my very tolerant aunt and then added my own illustrations. I just haven’t stopped since then – writing and telling stories has always been a vital part of who I am.
When did you first know you could be a writer?
I’ve always been writing, but it first occurred to me that I could make a career of writing back in middle school. We had an assignment to write a story at least two pages long, and most kids did that bare minimum. My story was twenty-six pages long, and my teacher pulled me aside after class to tell me I had talent, and that I shouldn’t give up on that dream. He was an aspiring writer, too, and I read his novel piece by piece over the rest of the school year and we spent a lot of time talking shop. He talked to me like I was more than just a kid with a dream—he treated me like a peer, like a fellow writer whose opinion he valued. That was when I realized writing could be a career, and that it was one I wanted.
What genre are you most comfortable writing?
Fantasy for sure – it’s my favorite genre to read, and I have the most fun writing in made-up worlds. I’ve heard people say that it’s better to write outside your comfort zone, but I think writing in a genre you know well is actually very liberating – if you know all the old tricks, know what’s been done a hundred times before, you can figure out what you have to do to write something unique and different, mostly by already knowing what not to do.
What inspired you to write your first book?
My love of reading encouraged me to write my first novel when I was twelve – at that point, I figured I’d read enough good books that I could figure out how to put together a decent book on my own. I was very wrong: the novel was just a horrendous mish-mash of pieces stolen from all my favorite books at the time. I found characters I liked, methods of writing I liked, themes I liked, plots I liked – and wrapped all that in a very thin veneer of originality.
What do you consider the most challenging about writing a novel, or about writing in general?
Up until recently, I’ve always had a problem finishing a novel. I have a ton of half-finished stories that I abandoned for a shiny new story idea…which I then later abandoned for a different, shinier story idea… It’s still hard not to pursue every new idea that comes into my mind, but I’ve gotten good at writing down the idea in as much detail as possible, even a few scenes if there’s something really stuck in my mind – and then I put those in a folder and don’t look at them until I’m done with my current project.
Did writing this book teach you anything and what was it?
I learned the value of outlining while writing this book: with alternating points of view, an outline was practically a necessity. I’d always been a discovery writer rather than a planner, so by forcing myself to start planning and outlining, I’ve managed to become a sort of hybrid of the two methods. I give myself starting points or ending points for each chapter based on where I know the story needs to go, and then let myself find the path to or from that point while writing.
Do you intend to make writing a career?
Assuming I can keep managing my time well, I don’t plan to give up my day job anytime soon. Part of it is because I love my day job, but I’m also less productive if I have too much free time. Being a full-time writer would be nothing but free time, and so I worry I’d end up spiraling into failure. I plan to keep writing until I physically can’t anymore, but I’m also hoping to keep working for most of that time too.
Have you developed a specific writing style?
The part I enjoy most about writing is character voice, and so my style varies from character to character. For In the Shadow of the Gods, I have four character points of view, each with their own distinct voice – so, this time around, I suppose I have four specific writing styles! I have some writing quirks that carry though no matter the voice, but I hope I can keep changing my writing style as the character or the narrative demands.
What is your greatest strength as a writer?
I can meet deadlines like nobody’s business.
What is your favorite quote, by whom, and why?
“Let us go then, you and I, / When the evening is spread out against the sky / Like a patient etherized upon a table; / Let us go, through certain half-deserted streets, / The muttering retreats” –T.S. Eliot, from “The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock”
I generally don’t like poetry, but “Prufrock” got under my skin and stuck there. I just love the vivid and unique imagery throughout, but especially in the opening lines. They always remind me that language can be used so well to evoke emotions, and that there’s power and beauty in words.