Z&P: Where did you get your inspiration for the Wicked series?
DV: The journey of Holly is very much like the hero’s journey. She gets the call to adventure, finds out that the world is a much larger place and that she has a role in it, and then goes on a quest to defeat evil. We took a lot of inspiration from some of the locations the books are set in as well as some of the historical events we embrace.
Did you have to do some research to write your books or did you make it all up?
That’s actually a very tricky question. In a way the answer is yes to both. A lot of research goes into every book I write. I wrote a series about theme parks and went to a lot of theme parks before creating my own. While mine is completely made up, it feels real for people who read the books because of the amount of detail I put in. When writing a scene that’s set in a place I’ve never been I try to do some research about the place, see if there are a few facts I can put in, and then I just have to imagine what it’s like to be there.
It’s the same thing with the Wicked series. We both researched Wiccan rituals and beliefs and then, with that knowledge in the back of our head, made everything up for the most part. That’s why real practitioners will sometimes point out that our use of some ceremonial objects or other details aren’t completely accurate. They’re not meant to be. We’re not writing factual accounts about practicing Wiccans at the end of the day, but taking some of the flavor of those beliefs and then asking ourselves “What if black magic existed and the world functioned in a certain way and someone who had no background or training could wield awesome powers?” Then we just went for it, trying to create a believable world in the Wicked books that our readers could really get into.
One of the really cool things we did revolved around actual historical events. We took real events, massacres, disasters, etc., and found ways to insert our characters into them. That actually required a lot of research, but was incredibly rewarding when we finally wrote the scenes.When you were little, did you dream of being an author or something else?
I had two dreams when I was little. I wanted to be a writer and a veterinarian. I spent a lot of time studying to become a veterinarian before turning aside to pursue writing instead. I still love animals, but I think ultimately I chose the right career for me.Now, if you weren’t an author, what do you think you would be?
If I wasn’t a writer I would be an actress. I love to act, to help bring other people’s stories to life. As it is, I do a lot of acting in community theater whenever possible. I find that the more I hone my writing skills, the more insightful I am as an actor. The one thing that’s better about acting than writing is you don’t have to wait as long to know whether or not people enjoyed your work. Rehearsals for a play typically run about six weeks and two hours after you step on stage opening night you know what people think of your performance. For a writer it can be up to a year before you get feedback from your audience.How long does it take you to write a book?
Anywhere from three weeks to six months. It varies from book to book and a lot of factors go into it. Some books are easier to write than others and just seem to flow really well. Others require a lot of blood, sweat, and tears to write a single chapter.Has a person ever inspired you?
A lot of people inspire me including family and friends. As far as helping me to choose to become an author I was deeply inspired by the western writer Zane Grey. He died long before I was ever born, but his books inspired me and I wanted to become a writer to make people feel the way I did when reading his books. My Wicked co-author, Nancy Holder, continually inspires me with her dedication to her craft and her ability to write so much so well.What is your favorite character that you have made up?
That’s a really hard question. My favorite character, I guess, is in a book that has not yet hit stores so nobody would have a frame of reference if I tossed out that name. In the books that are already out, I guess my favorite character would be Becca from the Sweet Seasons series. The character was crazy fun to write and actually made me laugh out loud when I was writing her. She has this extreme allergy to sugar and whenever she gets hold of some, which she does at least once a book, she goes crazy hyper. The character is actually a composite of me, a friend of mine, and a stuffed bunny rabbit I have. Even though Becca isn’t the main character of the series she has gained a lot of love and support from readers. My husband was constantly lobbying for me to add more Becca scenes to each book.What is the best book you have read?
The Lone Star Ranger by Zane Grey is the best book I have ever read. It was the first Zane Grey novel I read and when I finished reading it I knew I wanted to be a writer too. The book follows the story of a gunfighter in the old west through his fall into outlaw ways and his eventual rise and salvation through joining the Texas Rangers. Zane Grey had a way of making the characters so incredibly real, it feels like you know them.How has the co-authoring process worked on the Wicked series?
Nancy and I write very well together and we have similar writing styles. In order to write books together we put aside our own egos and make decisions not on personal wants or tastes, but on what’s best for the story. We have a rule “Never back, always forward”. What that means is that if one of us changes something, the other isn’t allowed to change it back, but only to change into something else new. This way the story constantly evolves forward until any particular piece isn’t my idea or hers, my words or hers, but ours. We generally split up the chapters and each write half. Then we swap them and revise them. Then each of us takes one last read through the manuscript to change/tweak what we need to. It’s worked out very well for us. The great part is you can point to almost any sentence in a book and although we can tell you who wrote the chapter initially, even we don’t know who actually wrote that particular sentence. It’s fantastic. The result is that the reader doesn’t hear my voice or her voice, but our voice. Many writers reference their books as their children and I guess in this way it’s an apt analogy. When you look at a book we wrote together you can distinguish Nancy’s rich descriptions and my fast pacing.How did you write the book together, did you sit together and write or take it in turns to write different bits?
Unfortunately Nancy and I live in different states. Our collaborating happens on the phone and over email. Sometimes when we’re writing our own chapters we’ll wait until we get the previous chapter from the other. Other times we just carry on and change what we have to later to make sure everything fits together smoothly.Did you find it difficult to write a book with another author instead of just by yourself?
Co-writing can be difficult, but with Nancy and I it is almost easier than writing by ourselves. That’s because whenever we don’t like something or are trying to work out a certain problem, the other one probably has the answer. When you can bounce ideas off someone you really trust it makes for a fun experience and also can ease the load and the pressure.What was the first thing you got published, how did you do it, and how old were you?
I was twenty and I published a poem in an anthology. I got poetry magazines and market guides and entered contests and submitted for anthologies. I had half a dozen poems published this way. Then, I wrote an article about throwing a themed wedding which was published in a local bridal magazine because my florist knew the editor and the editor really wanted an article about what it takes to throw that kind of wedding.The first book I had published was Wicked: Witch. Nancy invited me to co-write it with her after we had met a couple of years earlier at the Maui Writers Conference. A lot about getting writing work is networking, and that is true even when you’ve published several books. It’s always nice to know other writers who can tell you when an editor they know is looking for a particular kind of book that you might just happen to have.
I got my first rejection letter when I was twelve. I submitted a story to a children’s magazine and was told my work was too violent for children. I was a little confused by that. When I was twenty-nine I got to stand in a bookstore and see my name on a book for the first time. It was a long, hard road, but well worth it!
Me again, just to say a huge thanks to the girls and Debbie for this excellent interview. In addition and rather excitingly, I have a copy of the second volume of the Wicked series, that's books three and four to give away. So if you are interested all you have to do is leave a comment on this post and make sure you can be reached by email. It's open world wide and will close on the 7th February. - HR