Monday, August 17, 2015

Author Interview: Susan Dennard

Susan Dennard has come a long way from small-town Georgia. As a marine biologist, she got to travel the world—six out of seven continents, to be exact (she’ll get to Asia one of these days!)—before she settled down as a full-time novelist and writing instructor. 

She is the author of the Something Strange and Deadly series as well as the forthcoming Witchlands series (Tor, 2015), and when not writing, she can be found hiking with her dogs, exploring tidal pools, or practicing her tap dance shuffles.

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Casey Marie: Since Comic-Con is all about fangirling, has there been any author, at Comic-Con or another event, that you fangirled uncontrollably over when you met them?

Susan Dennard: Yes, the first time it happened was when I met author Robin Hobb. I met her at San Diego Comic-Con three years ago and I started crying. I brought my book from home because I knew she was going to be here and she is probably my most favorite author of all time. I had a meltdown once it was finally my time in line and it was really embarrassing, but she was so gracious and kind. I actually saw her again two months later and she remembered me and invited me out to dinner. I had dinner with her and it was the best experience in my life. She actually read my newest book Truthwitch and gave it a blurb, so her name is going to be on the cover of my new book. I can’t believe it! 

(Susan Dennard, Robin Hobb)
Photo Taken at Comic-Con 2012
CM: Wow! That’s amazing!

SD: I know, I can’t believe she has been so nice to me. I do not deserve this because I have done nothing but embarrass myself in front of her. She has been wonderful. So, yes that has been my biggest fangirling moment.

CM: On the same note, if you could write a book with any author, dead or alive, who would it be?

SD: I don’t know if there is any author I would want to write a book with. I write with my best friend, Sarah J. Maas, and that’s pretty awesome. I think she is the only person I could write a book with; writing a book is such a personal experience and you have to have a certain creative meshing for it to work and I don't feel that most people have the same crazy, creative vibe that Sarah and I both have.

CM: If you could take one of your characters from the Something Strange and Deadly trilogy and a character from Truthwitch and ship them together, who would be the most compatible?

SD: Oh my gosh, that is so hard! I definitely think Eleanor from Something Strange and Deadly and the character Iseult from Truthwitch would be really good friends, but that’s not shipping, but it kind of is in terms of friend shipping. I think they would be really good friends. I think Safiya from Truthwitch and Oliver from Something Strange and Deadly would probably have chemistry, but I don’t know about long term.

CM: If you could be roommates with one of your characters, who would you choose?

SD: That’s a tough one! I feel like Joseph from Something Strange and Deadly would be the best roommate to have because he is very clean so I would not have to tell him to clean the dishes. But, Joseph would probably hate living with me because I am not clean. Eleanor would be really fun and Safi would be fun, too, but I do not trust them to get the dishes done. Maybe Iseult from Truthwitch, she would be responsible but also fun. You really need that perfect balance.

CM: How do you describe your books or writing in five words?

SD: Sweeping—there are sweeping worlds and stories— adventurous, epic, diverse—not just in terms of character diversity but also in how many places you get to go and see and explore and moving—I know when I write them, I get really invested in the characters and I hope readers also get invested and are moved by the time the series is over.

CM: Since you mentioned how diverse your worlds are, how do you come up with the maps and the names of locations? Do they just come to you?

SD: No, I search history or the real world for that stuff. Obviously, Something Strange and Deadly happens is this world—Philadelphia, Paris and then Egypt. That was based on real history and I did all the research there. But for the Witchlands series, it is very loosely based on Europe. The map looks a little bit like Europe and some of the cultural placements are the same, but I also had a major creative license and took it and evolved it in the ways I wanted to in the context of, what if the Empire had magic, what would it have become? I do try to make names seem culturally distinct so everyone from one culture will not have similar sounding names and if I can, I try to mimic history in some way, but that can be hard because of cultural appropriation. It’s a tricky balance, but yes I am on Wikipedia a lot.

Truthwitch Map

CM: So you have a membership on Wikipedia and everything?

SD: I don’t have a membership, but I am literally on there a least once a day and I tend to get in this Wikipedia vortex where I click on one thing and just keep clicking links inside until twenty links later I’m like, “Where did the last four hours go? Wow, I learned so much!”

CM: That’s like when you get on Tumblr!

SD: Oh my god, Tumblr! Tumblr is literally the biggest black hole. I could, no I do, shamefully spend hours on Tumblr and also on Pinterest looking at the pretty pictures.

CM: Going with the theme of Social Media, if your characters had the ability to access Social Media in their free-time, which website would they be obsessed with?

SD: Eleanor is super thoughtful and would probably have a blog so she could wax poetic and spend many hours talking about the thing she cares about in long-form. Safi, who is super impulsive, would fit well with Twitter because she wants to blurt out what she is thinking right now and she could do that on Twitter. Iseult, who is very quiet and reserved, would like something like Pinterest where she could express herself in a non-word fashion. Merik, who has a short temper, I could see him on Tumblr  getting angry, Tumblr style, “Just let me re-blog all this stuff about the rebellion in my country, I am so mad! *Re-blog, Re-blog*” Then there is Aeduan, the Bloodwitch, who would probably be like, “I eat computers for breakfast and I hate them.” So he would not be online.

CM: So he would want a Social Media ban?

SD: Yeah, he would be like, “Twitter what?” My husband will not use Social Media, so I think that is what Aeduan would be like, “Nope, not for me. I have people to rip apart.”

CM: That’s a little vicious.

SD: Not really, he does not kill anyone. He talks a big game.

CM: What is one question you have wanted to be asked in an interview or on a panel, but no one has ever asked you?

SD: I have no idea because I have never thought of it. Maybe, why am I so cool? That would be a really good question because then I would know they think I’m cool.

CM: Why are you so cool then?

SD: I fed you that line, you don’t think I’m cool.

CM: Why are you so awesome?

SD: You know, it takes a lot of hard work and focus. I wake up every morning and I have to do brain sit-ups to, “Be awesome, be awesome.” No, I am the biggest dork as you can see.

CM: Okay, then. I know Comic-Con is coming to a close, what was the highlight of this weekend for you?  

SD: I really enjoyed my signing yesterday with Sarah, I signed Truthwitch and she signed Throne of Glass. It was awesomely fun, it always is when you do stuff with your best friend. But we did the Outlander panel yesterday and….

(Sarah J. Maas, Susan Dennard, Me)
Photo Taken at Sarah & Susan's Signing at Comic-Con 2015
CM: *Fangirling at mention of Outlander*

SD: It was really entertaining, I love the show, I love the books and the chemistry of the people on the stage. It was just really great.

CM: *Rambles on about her love of Outlander for the next minute*

CM: What are you most excited for people to see in Truthwitch?

SD: You know, it is a really big world, and an epic fantasy that is epic in all aspects of the word. I am really excited for people to explore the world in the way that I have. I obviously love the characters but I also think a lot of what makes Truthwitch exciting and maybe a little bit new in YA is how big the world is and how much we get to see of it in all of the books and explore all the different cultures. I am really excited about that.

Truthwitch (Witchlands #1)
Releases from Tor on January 5th, 2016
CM: How many books are you expecting to have in the Witchlands series?

SD: Tor has bought four books and my plan is to stick with that and maybe write some side novellas about some of the secondary characters and whatever I can and whatever the fans seem to want. I really like to write to my audience and see what they are asking for. But, four as of right now. I hope I can do that because right now I have made that world so big that I think, “Maybe I need more books. Uh oh, better condense. Stop going to new places and stop introducing new cultures.” So we will see. 

Enter to win a signed Truthwitch poster and other Truthwitch and Something Strange and Deadly swag.

  • You must be 13 years or older, unless you have a parent's permission
  • This giveaway is U.S. ONLY (Sorry)
  • STARTS August 18th, 2015 at 12:00 a.m. EST 
  • ENDS September 19th, 2015 at 12:00 a.m. EST

Disclaimer: I am not responsible for any lost or damaged packages

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(Me, Susan Dennard)
Photo Taken at Comic-Con 2015


  1. Fantastic interview!! And oh boy!! 4 BOOKS!!! YESSSSSS!!!

  2. So Jealous you got to meet with Susan Dennard! aaah And this interview is awesome. Thanks for the giveaway!