Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Interview with author Debra Dunlap

Today, my guest is MuseItUp author, Debra Dunlap.  Debra's fantasy novel, Fallon O’Reilly & the Ice Queen’s Lair will be published October, 2010 (

1. Please tell me how long you've been writing, and why you decided to become a writer.

I wrote my first novel at the age of 12 using a toy typewriter.  It’s probably fortunate that all 25 pages of it disappeared long ago! 

For many years, I told myself stories during the day when I was bored and as I lay in bed at night trying to sleep.  It didn’t occur to me until a few years ago that I could put the stories in a more permanent form. 

I’d had a story trickling through my mind for several years when I read an interview someone did with J.K. Rowling.  The interviewer asked her if she planned to introduce American characters in her books.  She said no, but that it would be fine with her if someone wanted to write such a story.  Later, my oldest son jokingly referred to my living room as the “Ice Queen’s Lair” because I kept my swamp cooler running constantly during the hot Wyoming summer.  Something clicked and voila!  Fallon O’Reilly & the Ice Queen’s Lair was born.

2. Are you a full-time writer or a part-time writer, and how do you organize your writing time?

I have a full-time job working in the legal system, so I write part-time.  Fortunately, I write quickly and don’t suffer from writer’s block (knock on wood!).  When I sit down to write, my fingers seem to type of their own accord and I actually see the book playing itself out, rather like watching a movie.

Because I work full-time, I get up at 5 a.m. to write before I go to work.  If you lived next door, you would see me dash out the door at the last minute every morning with hair dripping wet from the shower because I tend to spend a bit more time writing than I should!

3. What influences your writing?

I think life experiences and dreams influence my writing, rather than particular authors.  My children have always laughed at what they call my “crazy dreams.”  As a 12 year old, I dreamed about dashing under the feet of a giant dinosaur to save my younger brothers and sisters from certain death.  Hmm, I haven’t written a novel about dinosaurs, but I’m beginning to get an idea…

4. Is this your first published work?  What other types of writing have you done?

Fallon O’Reilly and the Ice Queen’s Lair is my first published novel.  Last year, Apollo’s Lyre published the first flash story I wrote.  Several years ago, I co-authored research results entitled “Measurement of Curing Times and Switching Rates of  Polymerized Liquid Crystals.”  I’m sure nobody read that one except my physics professor!

5. Why did you choose to write a children's story?

I chose to write children’s literature for the same reason I enjoy reading children’s literature--it’s fun!  Of course, I read adult literature, too, but I like the fact that children’s books are generally optimistic.  In children’s books, bad people may exist and unpleasant things happen, but there’s always a thread of good somewhere.  I suppose I like that because it fits my view of the world and people in general. 

6. What was the process of creating this book from the first idea to the final published book?

Attending Lea Schizas’ online Muse Conference motivated me to actually begin writing.  At the Conference, I learned of NaNoWriMo and wrote my first 50,000 words in a month.  I took a new job and moved to a new house after NaNoWriMo, so the novel was pushed aside for nearly a year.  Once I managed to begin writing again, it didn’t take long to finish.  Editing a novel is much more time consuming for me than writing!

7. What are your thoughts on traditional versus self-publishing?

I am new to the business, so do not have any experience with either, but it seems to me that with the advent of e-books & e-readers, self-publishing has become more acceptable.  However, I enjoy the advantages of having a publisher so that I can spend my time writing.  I appreciate having someone to handle the business side of writing.

8. Is there anything in your story based upon a real life event? If so, tell me about it.

Yes, there is a small incident in the book based on a real life experience.  In one scene, Raven O’Reilly drops a cast-iron skillet on Fallon’s head.  When I was a teenager, my mother asked me to get something from a bottom cupboard.  She was busy cooking dinner and doing dishes as she cooked.  I knelt on the floor below her to reach the cupboard and she dropped a huge cast-iron skillet.  As luck would have it, it fell right on top of my head.  Other than feeling a bit woozy, I was fine and probably would’ve forgotten the incident, except that my poor mother was so panicked it stuck in my mind all these years!

9. What are your thoughts about children's writers needing an agent or not needing one?

If an author needs an agent, it doesn’t matter what type of literature you write.  Children’s literature is as competitive as other genres.

10. Where can people find out more about you and your writing?

I am working on a website and plan to have it ready in a few weeks, but here are a few current links.

11. Please give us a brief synopsis of your current book and when and where it will be available.

Magic lives in the Americas, too…

Land of the Midnight Sun.  The Aurora Borealis.  Valley of Ten Thousand Smokes.  Dog sleds.  Mount Denali.  60 degrees below zero.  Moose.  Grizzly bears.  Salmon.  Gold nuggets.  Blueberries.  Bunny boots and duct tape. 

To most people, the word “Alaska” evokes visions of a wild, mysterious land, but for Fallon O’Reilly, it means home.  Growing up in a village hidden deep in the wilderness, she eagerly anticipates her first sojourn at the Borealis Academy of Magical Arts.  Nothing dampens her enthusiasm-not the creepy bookseller, her sisters’ nagging or the world’s nastiest classmate. 

However, when village inhabitants disappear, someone murders a student’s pet and she suffers a near-fatal attack by a horrible, hairy creature, Fallon’s curiosity draws her into a dark mystery.  Can a twelve-year old witch, together with her wheelchair-bound cousin and newfound friend from Wyoming, uncover the identity of the evil behind the chilling events? 

From the wind-swept tundra to the frozen peaks of Mount Denali, Fallon’s struggle to protect the school and her fellow students encompasses a journey of far more breadth than she expected.

MuseItUpPublishing will release  Fallon O’Reilly & the Ice Queen’s Lair, Book One of Magic in the Americas, in October 2010 in e-book format and print format in 2011.

Debra, thank you for being my guest today and sharing your thoughts about your writing life.


  1. Great interview Penny!

    Enjoyed reading the synopsis of the book. I like the book cover and the title. I look forward to reading this when it comes out.

  2. Enjoyed reading the interview. Debra's very fortunate not to suffer from writer's block since she's on a tight writing schedule. Well, just because she's a writer. :-) The setting of her story is intriguing and it sounds perfect for hair raising scenes to occur. Great!

  3. Susanne, I was lucky enough to get a sneak peek at this book. It's wonderful and I can't wait for the next installment.

  4. Lee, Thanks for stopping by. I loved the fact the story is set in Alaska. Not too many fantasy books are which makes for an intriguing story line.