I was at the 100th birthday celebration of the Lethbridge Public Library on Wednesday and had the great pleasure of meeting Danika Stone who is the new Writer-In Residence there. She graciously took the time to answer a few questions about her upcoming role and her love of writing.
You are the new Writer-In-Residence at the Lethbridge Public Library. For those who don’t know, what does that mean?
The Writer-in-Residence program connects an author – in this case, me – with the community. During the LPL’s Writer-in-Residence program, I will have an office at the main branch of the Lethbridge Public Library. Beyond one-on-one support, I will also do several literary presentations over the course of the twelve weeks that the Writer-in-Residence program runs, providing services such as manuscript evaluations and publishing advice to people from Southern Alberta.
Obviously you have a passion for writing. Where did that come from?
I’ve always loved writing and English was my favorite subject at school. I was the kind of student who wrote far more than they had to on any given assignment! I think part of that passion is wired in. I love to create! But the other part came from being raised in a family where reading was valued and shared.
Where did you grow up and how would you describe your childhood?
I was born in Edmonton, but my parents and two siblings moved to Lethbridge when I was three. Our family had two great loves: the outdoors and books, and both defined my life. The five of us spent summers in Waterton at my father’s childhood home. (The cabin is still in the family.) The school year, on the other hand, was spent “in town” (in Lethbridge), though we’d often spend our weekends in the mountains.
One of my best memories is hiking through the coulees with Dr. Johnson, one of my father’s colleagues from the college, searching for rattlesnakes to tag. Another is skating on Waterton lake by moonlight when the ice was so clear you could see right down to the water below.
You are a published author of numerous books. Take us through the process of how you go from an idea in your head to having a publisher want your work seen in book stores and on line.
All good books start with a story you feel compelled to share with the world. It’s an idea you can’t let go and once you begin, you can’t stop the flow of words. Believe it or not, writing the book is the easy part.
Once you’ve got the finished draft in your hands, you need an agent. Traditional publishing means that large bookstores will carry your book and that the burden of promotion won’t fall entirely on you. Querying for an agent can be a disheartening process, but it’s absolutely necessary as that is the person who will sell your book to publishers. When you sign with an agent, he or she puts the potential book out “on sub” to see if anyone is interested, and hopefully someone is!
Signing that publishing contract feels like a massive achievement – and it is – but it’s only one of many. The next two years will be full of them as you revise and rewrite, sometimes even removing entire sections of your story. The first draft of any book is written for the author. Every other version afterwards is written with the public in mind. At the end of two years or so, you have a finished book.
The last hurdle in the marathon is promotions. Yes, I know I just told you that traditionally published authors don’t have to carry that entire burden, but they do carry some of it. As the weeks tick down to the moment your book will be in stores, you launch into promotions mode, writing articles, blog posts, doing interviews, and getting out (if possible) to various events around the world. (In the last three months I’ve been to New York for Book Con and Book Expo, San Diego for Comic Con, Calgary for When Words Collide, plus a variety of smaller venues to promote.) As the launch date arrives, you give one last push and hope for the best. Now it’s time to see how the public responds!
Talk about the books you’ve written and what’s next for you as an author?
I’ve written three mystery-thrillers that take place in Waterton park. They are: Edge of Wild, The Dark Divide, and Fall of Night (Stonehouse 2016, 2018, 2020.) The first two are in stores now; Fall of Night will arrive in fall 2020 from Stonehouse Publishing. This trilogy is particularly close to my heart because my family comes from Waterton and the park always felt a bit mysterious to me. I loved weaving together a complex story where threads from book 1 show up in book 3, and character arcs move and shift across the trilogy!
I’ve also written two tech-savvy books for Macmillan: All the Feels and Internet Famous (Macmillan 2016, 2017.) In All the Feels, a college student, Liv, and her best friend (and cosplay aficionado), Xander, go on a mission to bring Liv’s favorite character back from the dead, eventually travelling to a comic convention to meet the actor who plays him. Internet Famous takes on the very real issue of online bullying as Madi (@madlibs) must track down a troll who is determined to destroy her life one post at a time. My most recent YA, Switchback, actually takes place in Southern Alberta! In it, two best friends from Lethbridge – Vale and Ash – take a class field trip to Waterton and get lost on the hike. They end up deep in the Rocky Mountains and must survive with nothing but their wits to rely on. There’s been such an amazing response to this book! It even got a glowing review by David Sulz in the “Lethbridge Herald”.
What does it mean to you to live in Lethbridge?
I love Lethbridge. For a small city, it’s incredibly diverse. The unique intersection of educational institutes, indigenous community, the arts world, agriculture, and sports (to just name a few!) are unlike anywhere else in Canada or the world. The kindness of people in Lethbridge and the “small town” flavor makes it a wonderful place to call home. I’ve moved away twice, and both times I missed it so much I came back within a year.
Top 5 authors of all time?
In no particular order:
What actor would you like to play your main character if one of your books was made into a movie?
Okay, I love this question! In the Edge of Wild trilogy, a no-nonsense New York businessman, Rich Evans, comes to Waterton to save a floundering hotel and ends up in the crosshairs of a killer. I’ve always imagined Rich played by Michael Fassbender. I think he could really capture the sharp edges of Rich’s personality while still portraying the terror as Rich realizes he’s in over his head!
What do you like to do away from writing?
I’m an avid hiker and an artist. An ideal “day off” would be taking an easy hike out to a beautiful lake – say Crandell – with my easel and paints on my back, then setting up and painting all day. It’s one of my favorite things to do!
Talk about some ideas you have during your time as Writer In Residence and what is important to you?
The most important thing to me is to give back to the library and the community that has shaped my writing, supporting me every step of the way. I’m eager to help other aspiring writers get a leg-up into the publishing world, and I want to share my love of books with as many people as possible. The Writer-in-Residence program is one way I can do all those things!
Thank you so much for interviewing me, Mark. I look forward to seeing you at one of the Writer-in-Residence events!
Find out more about Danika at http://www.danikastone.com