interview with Diane Magras, the author of THE MAD WOLF'S DAUGHTER

Hi All,

This year as my own debut publication is looming on the horizon, I've been lucky and privileged to get to know many of my fellow debut authors. In particular, joining the Electric Eighteens support group (run by 2018 debuts for 2018 debuts!) has been fantastic. Not only I now have access to the brilliant hive mind that is this group, I can also celebrate my fellow authors' successes. What makes me especially happy is to see my author friends debut at last and witness all the love they get from their readers.   

In this vein, I'm restarting my Industry Interview series and am happy to present to you the following interview with Diane Magras, whose medieval adventure THE MAD WOLF'S DAUGHTER is hitting the shelves as I type this sentence!   

And so, without further ado, I present to you this interview, in which among other things, Diane talks about her writing journey, the in-depth research she's done for her stunning debut and her love for the medieval Scotland, which I now share!

Interview with Diane Magras, the author of  THE MAD WOLF'S DAUGHTER

About Diane Magras

Diane Magras grew up on Mount Desert Island in Maine surrounded by woods, cliffs, and the sea. She works for the Maine Humanities Council, volunteers at her son’s school library, and is addicted to tea, toast, castles, legends, and most things medieval. Diane lives with her husband and son and thinks often of Scotland, where her novels take place. The Mad Wolf’s Daughter is her debut novel.





What book influenced you most when you were a child (and why)?

It was The Dark is Rising by Susan Cooper. I was in London on a holiday with my family one summer and reading anything I could find, and my mother handed me a copy. I figured it would be a fun English story, but two things I didn’t expect struck me very quickly: how familiar Will Stanton’s world felt like, and how exciting and inspiring the story was. I’d read a lot of books I’d enjoyed before then, but The Dark is Rising was the first book I loved that much. It opened a new kind of storytelling to me: vivid and exciting, but with depth. Within a year after reading it, I began writing novels myself.

If you have one, what is your favorite book of all times?

I love Philip Reeve’s masterful Here Lies Arthur, a historical novel taking place in 500s Britain that depicts who the real “King Arthur” might have been: a brutal minor war-band leader with a reputation swelled by stories. There is so much heart in this book beneath its characters’ cruel world. It’s also a great story, and the writing is just beautiful with brief, imaginative descriptions that reinterpret the reader’s perception of something as simple as a hill, or a wall, or a sky. This would normally be on my shelf in the “Great Books I’ve Loved” section, but it’s even more meaningful to that: This book was my comfort and friend while writing The Mad Wolf’s Daughter. In the early drafts, when I found myself unable to get into a scene, I picked it up and read a few pages as a way to step away into another world entirely. It distanced me enough from my own work to help me see my words and scenes with fresh eyes.

When did you first know you wanted to become a writer? What was your path to publication like?

When I was fourteen years old, I knew I wanted to be a writer. I wrote constantly. Fast forward, though, to around 2008, when I knew I wanted to be a published writer. I knew how to write, but it took me a few years of submissions and rejections to learn to revise. In 2015, I wrote the first draft of The Mad Wolf’s Daughter, and this novel really felt different. This was a book I cared about more than any of the others I’d written. I had more readers for this book than any other, and they helped me catch a lot of mistakes before I began submitting it. At that point, I’d had two previous novels rejected over and over—I’m very glad they were rejected, by the way!—and knew that even if this one was ultimately rejected, I’d be able to write something new and start over again. (I always have a fresh idea in my notebooks.) That said, I really loved this story and its characters, and I would have regretted seeing them relegated to a drawer. But I was lucky: I found a few agents fairly quickly who were interested in the manuscript and asked me to revise and resubmit. And one became my agent. Then, within a few months, I had an editor. She’s been incredible to work with and with her guidance, I’ve really learned how to revise. I could go on, but just sticking to the publication part: It all happened quickly.

Your debut book, THE MAD WOLF'S DAUGHTER, is set in 13th century Scotland – how did you choose this setting? What kind of research did you have to do for this book?

I knew I wanted this to be in medieval Britain, and I picked Scotland because I’ve always loved Scottish history (and I’m a big fan of Scotland today), and my characters just seemed Scottish in their earliest incarnations. I chose the early 13th century to set this between conflicts because I didn’t want to write about early medieval battles or go into the years leading up to the Wars of Independence. I wanted my historical world to have an uneasy peace. I read a lot of books—thank goodness Maine has a library consortium that allows me to easily borrow books from any public and most college libraries in the state—about British history, Scottish history, how people lived, and things like armor, medieval herbals, and castles. I also visited Scotland for a couple of research/inspiration trips to get a sense of what it felt like being in a castle: to walk up those narrow stairs, step into a cavernous Great Hall, and just run my hand over the walls. And also to see the landscape. I created my own adaptation of the landscape, going so far as to redesign a piece of coastline to fit my book, but it was still important for me to see the real coastline, the real woods, the real Borders, to base my fictional version on fact.

Finding the right voice for a book is so important – could you give some pointers on how to get the voice right, especially for a book for younger readers?

For me, getting the right voice for a novel is often getting the right voice for my protagonist, and I practice dialogue a bit (yes, I talk aloud to myself!) to get it just right. For the whole novel, the authorial voice pretty much comes to me; I read a lot of middle grade fiction, and, to be honest, I’m probably 12 at heart. If you’re writing for kids, talking with kids helps with that voice, and, of course, reading a lot. I think it’s also crucial when you’re writing for kids to remember who you were when you were a kid, and what you cared about, and what bothered you. All that plays into the voice and how you tell your story.

Do you listen to music when you write? (If yes, what's been on your play-list lately?)

No, I don’t. (Sorry! Not a helpful answer here.)

What comes next? What are you working on at the moment?

I’m working on edits for the sequel to The Mad Wolf’s Daughter. It’s so much fun to back in Drest’s world. I’m exploring her relationships with her family, giving her some new adventures and new people to meet, and also further developing a lot of the other characters. It’s giving me a chance to reinforce a few of the major themes of the first book in a different way, and also explore new themes.

Any advice for all the aspiring/emerging writers out there?

Read a lot in the genre in which you write, keep writing, revise with courage (but take care to keep what you love most about your work), and don’t give up! And be patient with yourself in honing your craft; that takes a long time. For publication, just remember: So much of this business is luck, and being persistent and present is a big part of reaching that goal.

Bonus questions!

Your dream holiday?

I’d love to spend a full month in Scotland, haunting castles and other historical ruins.

In your writing process/routine, are you… a planner, pantser, or…?

A bit of both. I come up with a basic premise, a skeletal outline of the story, and then I write it and let myself change things as I go along.

Cats or dogs?

Cats! (In fact, my cat Flora, my writing buddy, is asleep on my lap as I’m writing this!)

Coffee or tea?

Tea (strong dark teas like Scottish breakfast or Yorkshire Gold) with a splash of milk. 

That's all for now, folks:) 

Thank you for stopping by, Diane! 

More information about THE MAD WOLF'S DAUGHTER

A Scottish medieval adventure about the youngest in a war-band who must free her family from a castle prison after knights attack her home.

One dark night, Drest’s sheltered life on a remote Scottish headland is shattered when invading knights capture her family, but leave Drest behind. Her father, the Mad Wolf of the North, and her beloved brothers are a fearsome war-band, but now Drest is the only one who can save them. So she starts off on a wild rescue attempt, taking a wounded invader along as a hostage.

Hunted by a bandit with a dark link to her family’s past, aided by a witch whom she rescues from the stake, Drest travels through unwelcoming villages, desolate forests, and haunted towns. Every time she faces a challenge, her five brothers speak to her in her mind about courage and her role in the war-band. But on her journey, Drest learns that the war-band is legendary for terrorizing the land. If she frees them, they’ll not hesitate to hurt the gentle knight who’s become her friend.

Drest thought that all she wanted was her family back; now she has to wonder what their freedom would really mean. Is she her father’s daughter or is it time to become her own legend?

Find Diane Magras and THE MAD WOLF'S DAUGHTER on  GoodReads

Check out Diane's author website for lots of cool information, resources and visuals  

Find THE MAD WOLF'S DAUGHTER on the publisher's website


Check your local bookshop!

Listening Library (audio book)


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