Character Interview: Darcie Duffield (Fortune’s Well Book 1 – Hangman’s Revenge)

To celebrate the release of Fortune’s Well Book 1 – Hangman’s Revenge we are sharing a couple of character interviews! Next up is Darcie Duffield, one of our main protagonists.

1. Who is your best friend?

I could tell you it’s Vicky Marshall, but that wouldn’t be completely true. My real best friend is my aunt Jenna… which is weird, because she’s dead. I know. Messed up. But sometimes I like to talk to her still. It makes me feel ok for just a minute.

2. Who is your worst enemy?

Well, that one’s easy – Jared Wheeler.

3. What do you think people think of you?

Unfortunately, I don’t think people think of me at all.

4. What do you wish people knew about you?

That I’m more than just good grades and good genes. There’s more to me than meets the eye. It sounds silly, but I feel like I’m meant to do great things.

5. What’s your biggest fear?

Losing myself and becoming exactly who they want me to be. But lately… lately I think my biggest fear is what will happen to my new friend, JJ Carson, if I can’t help him in time.

6. What’s your biggest hope?

My hope is for JJ and his mother to reconnect. Perhaps make up for all the lost time. Who knows, maybe I can do the same with my own mom…

7. What’s your biggest secret?

The girl in the mirror. I’m the only one who sees her and she sees me right back.

8. What is the worst thing you have done to another person?

I hurt someone. Bad. At least, I was part of what happened to them. Even worse I ran and covered up the truth. But sometimes bad people deserve bad things… right?

9. What kind of friend are you?

Loyal and fierce.

10. What are your worst habits?

I bite my lip pretty much whenever I’m anxious, or nervous, or just generally over thinking situations. It’s terrible. I’m surprised I have a mouth left at all!

11. What is one thing about yourself that you would change if you could?

I wish what was on the inside would shine through more. That people could see that before they see the rest of me.

12. What is one thing about yourself that you would never change?

I’m very inquisitive and that definitely comes in handy when I need it. I guess I must get that from my dad. He’s a head researcher for Bio Chem, a large pharmaceutical company.

13. Where would you like to be in 5 years time?

Right now? Any where but Fortune’s Well. There’s something about this place that I can’t put my finger on. But I will find out what it is. I know I will. It’s in my nature. And that scares me.

14. What is on your bucket list?

Not many people know this, but I love to write. I want to write this down someday, everything that’s happening with JJ and me. An epic adventure I can capture forever.

WE hope you enjoyed meeting our two teen heroes, JJ and Darcie! Here is the buy link if you would like to check out the book. It’s the first in a trilogy, and be warned, it’s wild ride! https://chantelleatkins.com/2022/05/24/character-interviews-jj-carson-fortunes-well-book-1-hangmans-revenge/

Welcome To Fortune’s Well: Book One Hangman’s Revenge is coming soon!

Fast on the heels of my recent release The Old Friend – A Collection of Tales and Poems, this Wednesday sees the release of the first book in the YA trilogy I’ve co-written with Sim Sansford. We are both incredibly excited that the moment is finally here after a whirlwind year of writing three books via Facebook messenger! It seems incredible that we are now about to welcome you into the strange town of Fortune’s Well and introduce you to our characters, JJ and Darcie.

I still can’t quite believe that we wrote three books together in such a short space of time – with very little planning, I might add! The majority of it was discussed and thrashed out within Facebook messenger. Sim had the original idea about lonely, misunderstood teens who discover they have special abilities and we decided to each create a character and then write alternate chapters from their points of view.

I went first and wrote the introductory chapter and my character JJ made his somewhat solemn entrance. At this point, we were not entirely sure where the story would lead us but we didn’t have to worry because the characters knew! Once they were fully alive, they just seemed to lead the way. What happened next was really a crazy whirlwind of messages and chapters flying back and forth between us.

Normally, I like to plan a book a bit before I start and then have a planning notebook running alongside the story as it unfolds, but our approach was a lot more haphazard than that. Yet it worked! I’ve never co-written anything before so this was a really interesting process and experience for me. I’ve always believed that talking about writing makes you want to write. It gets you excited, gets the ideas sparking and the passion running high. I often see this happening in the writing groups I run – people are unsure or hesitant or suffering from a block or a loss of confidence, and then all the talk and discussion and floating of ideas suddenly gets it all going again.

I think this is what happened with us and these books and it really felt quite magical. I mean, writing is magical anyway, it really is – ideas become stronger, characters become real people, plots develop and twist and turn and it all ignites together to create a story. A world.

With these books we had an idea, a concept about teens with powers hidden within them and that led us to the creation of Fortune’s Well and a far darker, twistier, grippping story than we had ever imagined. The town itself (based loosely on Sim’s home town of Dorchester) became a bigger part of the story than we first anticipated, opening up the possibility of prequels and sequels based there.

Whatever happens next, Sim and I have had the best time ever creating these stories. It was never supposed to be a trilogy, but it just kept going and I know we haven’t seen the last of these characters.

The book comes out on Wednesday 25th May and you can preorder via the link below if you are interested in finding out about what lies within Fortune’s Well and inside our our two teen protagonists.https://books2read.com/HangmansRevenge

Here is the blurb!

In the town of Fortune’s Well a dangerous storm is brewing, and two unsuspecting teenagers are standing right at the heart of it.

For JJ Carson, life has not been easy. His father is dead, his mother arrested for the murder, and he has been forced to live on the farm with his alcoholic uncle, Henry. Just when things could not get any worse, JJ discovers his living situation is not the only thing that makes him different from the other kids. A dark, swirling mist has made itself at home inside him and it is slowly changing him from the inside out.

Enter Darcie Duffield. Beautiful, popular, and incredibly misunderstood. Darcie is sick of the status quo and wants to make a difference. After a chance meeting with a strange boy at the river she becomes tangled in a web of lies and deceit as she tries to help save him from the darkness lurking within.

Why is this happening?
Where has it come from?

And why is Darcie the only one who can see it?

Writer’s Block is Really Your Friend (and you should listen to it)

Writer’s block is a horrible term I don’t even like to use. I think most writers hate the term and loathe the reality. We dread getting writer’s block but what does writer’s block even mean? How does it feel to be ‘blocked’ and what, if anything, is the ‘block’ trying to tell us?

I am very fortunate because writer’s block is not something I usually suffer from. I tend to have too many ideas, and too many projects on the go and my main problem is not enough time to do it all in! But recently the dreaded writer’s block struck and in fact I now realise it was with me for some time.

So, what is writer’s block? I think it can manifest itself in different ways. There is a block to ideas, when a writer quite simply can’t think of anything to write about. These writers tend to have big gaps between writing projects while they wait for the muse to show up again. There are blocks that happen mid-flow – one minute you are tapping away at the keyboard and then suddenly it all runs out. Your mind goes blank and you cannot conjure up the next words. There is also what I call plot blocks. Basically, you get stuck. You don’t know what to do next with the plot. Maybe you had it all planned out but now can’t figure out how to do it, or maybe you were winging it from the start and just ran out of steam. I’m not sure what type of block is the worst but I am more than familiar with the dread of sitting down and staring at a blank Word document.

Image by Steve Johnson from Pixabay

The block I’ve been suffering from was none of the above, not really. My current work in progress is a four book YA post-apocalyptic series. I had the idea a few years ago and it had to wait its turn. During that time I started a little notebook of themes, ideas and character bios. I always knew this one was going to be a challenge. I love the post-apocalyptic genre as you might already know from my post here: https://chantelleatkins.com/2021/07/02/post-apocalyptic-fascination/. From the start, I had this feeling that the series was a good idea but someone else would be able to do a better job with it than me. I don’t normally feel like that about my book ideas. I’m usually hugely protective and obsessed with them so I would never consider offering or suggesting the idea to someone else. But this one niggled from the start.

I started book one about a year ago but had to keep stopping to get other books finished and published. I was initially quite surprised with how well it went. The first chapters flew out of me effortlessly and were exactly what I wanted. I genuinely think the first few chapters of book one are excellent and I’m proud of them. It got harder after that. It became a slog!

And that’s the difference between these books and my others. Aside from my YA dystopian The Tree Of Rebels, all of my books follow a familiar pattern. I get the character first, they suggest the plot, back story, dilemma and so on. It builds in my head and everything flows from the characters until my head gets so noisy it feels like it will explode. By the time I get around to writing it it almost writes itself because I know it all so well. It’s not hard. It’s fun. It’s addictive and exciting. I normally cannot wait to sit down at my desk and tap away. Sure, I get stuck here and there and some parts are trickier than others, and first drafts are always a clumsy affair, but I still love it and believe in it.

With these books it has been hard work. I’ve forced myself to write a chapter a night most nights and with that work ethic I have managed to write the first two books and even get them to fourth draft stage. I am now nearing the end of the first draft of book three. I know what will happen in book four so it is all getting there. But it is so painful! When I say I force myself, I really do. I stare at the screen for ages. I nearly always get distracted by my phone, checking social media or emails or playing a game. Because it’s hard and I don’t like it being hard!

The trouble has been not understanding why it has been so hard and the other day I finally worked it out. As I mentioned earlier the only other book I had this trouble with was The Tree of Rebels. And there are similarities with this series – The Tree Of Rebels came from a concept first. I had the idea and then built the characters around it. The other similarity I only just realised was that I started writing that book and this series with an audience in mind. I knew The Tree Of Rebels would be a YA dystopian. It was great knowing that because then I’d know who to market it towards. Normally it’s a struggle to figure out what genre my books are! With this series, I knew it would be YA post-apocalyptic and with both The Tree Of Rebels and this series I wanted to aim them at 12-14 year olds. That’s the younger YA age bracket to my other books. I have some books aimed at adults and some aimed at 14 years and up. With The Tree Of Rebels I wanted to write a book my children could read at the time and with this current series I wanted to write a book the children who attend my writing clubs could maybe enjoy…

And that was the trouble! That was the block! When I realised it was like this light bulb eureka moment! Now I can’t believe it took me so long to figure it out!

Having the idea before the characters was a problem but the main problem was deciding who to aim it at before I even started writing. It’s like having someone watch over your shoulder the whole time and it totally changes the experience for me. I start thinking about what elements are expected in that genre and what things are suitable or appropriate for the age group. It ruins the process. I feel like I am writing a book to order, writing for someone else, and that just doesn’t work for me.

I realised that the age group was a real problem. There is a big difference between books aimed at ‘tweens’ and books aimed at older teenagers. I didn’t feel I could swear in this series and it’s just not as gritty or hard hitting as my other books. It’s just not me.

But all that is going to change. Once I figured out what was causing the writer’s block I made a decision. I’m now going to aim the series at the older YA audience and I am going to do what I normally do. Let rip, let them swear, go as dark and gritty and edgy as I like! I am going to write these books for me and no one else because that is the only way it works for me.

It’s amazing but since I realised all this, the chapters have started flowing again. It feels different. It feels exciting and a bit naughty! I have already wandered into darker territory. I am going to finish book three in this vein and carry on into book four. Of course, then I need to go back and rewrite everything I have done so far. I do think that was partly what prevented me from admitting what was wrong – knowing how much work I’d have to do to correct it! But I’m looking forward to it now. There will be more character development, some extra chapters and lots of rewriting in each book but I think it will all be worth it. And I will keep one thing in mind the entire time until these books are ready to publish – I am writing this series for ME. I am writing the books I want to read.

That should work!

And I suppose the moral of the story is always listen to writer’s block because it’s just trying to tell you something. For that reason, writer’s block is actually your friend. You just need to figure out what it’s telling you.

Do you ever suffer from writers’ block? If so, what kind? And what do you do to push through it?

Guest Post #4 Pandemic Pets – How Are Furry Friends Saved Our Sanity

Welcome to another Pandemic Pets feature! Each week I will be welcoming a guest to the blog to tell us how the furry friends in their life have made getting through the Covid 19 pandemic that much easier. Please welcome YA author KM. Allan who tells us how her new kitten Dash helped fill the hole left by her previous writing buddy, Slinky.

How Having A Pet During The Pandemic Made Things Joyful

When lockdown began in Australia during March, I’d had my new kitten Dash for only a few weeks. He wasn’t a lockdown pet, but a cat I’d been waiting to get for a few months, having lost my last cat, Slinky, to cancer 2 years prior. I’d had her for 15 years and was looking forward to having another furry companion and a new writing buddy.

Slinky – writing buddy

That first lockdown lasted from March until June. Then we had a second lockdown in July that’s still ongoing, although the harshest of restrictions eased last month. Having spent 7 months of the year in lockdown—mostly at home for 23 hours a day—you get to know a kitten pretty well.

While Dash spends a good amount of time sleeping, he’s also playful. Sometimes that playfulness happens at 3am and I wake to find him trying to steal my pillow, but it has made lockdown more bearable.

I tried to keep a routine during this time and stick to writing with the #6amAusWriters on Twitter, and this became part of Dash’s routine too. He’d get up with me and sit near the desk, often stealing my chair (until I got him his own) and would keep me company on cold winter mornings. It even got to the point where he’d wake me if I didn’t get up when my alarm went off (yes, really. And his idea of an alarm is biting me!)

Dash – writing buddy

While I didn’t get a pet to help me through lockdown, I wonder what it would have been like without one. I probably would have checked the news more often, letting the sadness of the world get to me more than it did. I wouldn’t have taken breaks through the day to throw soft balls around and marvel at how high a kitten can jump, and I wouldn’t have discovered how much Ragdoll cats are like dogs and will play fetch with you.

I would have known what it was like to pass the Groundhog Day sameness of lockdown by doing a puzzle without a cat stealing the pieces, but I wouldn’t have arranged boxes from online orders into cat tunnels or upgraded to a cat play system. I got to do those things during a time when we’ve all done things we probably thought we wouldn’t.

Dash – box tunnels

It was, and still is, a hard year to cope with, and I’m glad that I had a pet to help me through it.

Dash wasn’t just there on the days when all the creativity I could muster was to set Netflix to binge. He was also there when I achieved milestones like publishing my first two books.

In a year when being a debut author meant missing out on bookstore events, in-person launches, and celebrations in restaurants with family and friends, having a cat who was just as excited as me to open a box of my published books was fun. Okay, so for him, it might have been about a new box and not the books, but I’ll always smile when I see the picture of Dash nosing his way into the carton.

An event that didn’t pan out like I thought it would because of 2020 was still joyful, and it and many more events throughout year were, simply because I had a pet to share them with during the pandemic.

Thank you so much to Kate for joining us on The Glorious Outsiders and introducing us to the gorgeous Dash! It sounds like having him around really helped the strict lockdowns become more bearable. If you would like to know more about KM Allan and her books her links are below! And if you would like to write a personal piece, story or poem on the Pandemic Pets theme please get in touch!

K.M. Allan is an identical twin, but not the evil one. She started her career penning beauty articles for a hairstyling website and now powers herself with chocolate and green tea while she writes novels and blogs about writing.

When she’s not creating YA stories full of hidden secrets, nightmares, and powerful magic, she likes to read, binge-watch too much TV, spend time with family, and take more photos than she will ever humanly need.

Visit her website, http://www.kmallan.com, to discover the mysteries of the universe. Or at the very least, some good writing tips.