Monday, May 12, 2014

Guest post by Author Dianne Salerni and a give away of The Eighth Day

Mutiny in the Manuscript:
How a YA Historical Author Wrote a MG Fantasy by Accident

The whole thing started with a simple idea: a secret day of the week which only certain people could access.
It wasn’t a concept that lent itself to historical fiction, which is what I’d been writing for the past six years. I identified myself as a YA historical author, and with the word “branding” popping up all over the internet, I thought I was supposed to stick to one genre and one audience.

Nevertheless the idea of a secret day haunted me until I had no choice but to give it a try -- even though I was convinced I didn’t have the world-building skills needed for a speculative novel.  It also seemed like a middle grade premise, but I decided to stick with YA. Bad enough I was venturing outside my chosen genre into a contemporary setting with a “science fiction” premise. I didn’t want to change audiences too!

I started my draft with a few plot points to guide me (my normal method) and was immediately faced with a mutiny. One of the characters changed his name and his personality in the first chapter. I shoved him back into his planned role, and he resisted. CPs reading my chapters complained he was behaving like two different people  – and so he was while I battled for control of him.

He won.

The second uprising occurred when I happened on an Arthurian legend about Niviane, the Lady of the Lake, who trapped the wizard Merlin in an eternal, timeless forest. Merlin could not escape, but Niviane was able to visit him as she liked and learn the secrets of his magic. The situation eerily matched my plan for the secret eighth day and the race of people trapped there versus the people who could enter and leave it.

This wasn’t supposed to be a story about magic, and I never had any intention of bringing in Arthurian legends. But I wasn’t in charge anymore. Tattoos had entered the tale. (Huh?) And a motorcycle. (I’ve never ridden one.) And now that mutinous character had dragged in honor blades. (What?) I was already way out of my comfort zone.

Oddly enough, the story was still following my planned plot points, but it had become a fantasy, and yes, it was connected to Arthurian legend. I wondered if I’d ever show it to my agent. She’d think I was crazy!
I was creating a hot mess, but I still wrote compulsively, ending up with a bloated 100k word YA contemporary fantasy – and finally a clear idea of what the story was supposed to be about all along. Four drafts and a lot of word-cutting later, I had something I was willing to send my agent -- although I still wondered if she’d gently tell me to stick to historical fiction.

Instead, she got really excited and wanted to put the manuscript on submission as soon as possible. “One thing though,” she said. “This is really a middle grade story. Are you willing to revise some more?”
I had to laugh. The story told me it was MG right at the beginning. I should have listened.

When the book went on sub a month later and sold to HarperCollins in less than two weeks -- in a pre-empt -- in a 3-book deal, I realized three things:

1.  Branding is nonsense. I can write what comes to me.
2. I am capable of writing any genre – and for any audience – if I’m inspired by the idea, willing to do the work, and open to revising repeatedly.
3. When the characters in my WIP launch a mutiny, I should surrender immediately. It’ll save me a lot of grief down the road.

In this riveting fantasy adventure, thirteen-year-old Jax Aubrey discovers a secret eighth day with roots tracing back to Arthurian legend. Fans of Percy Jackson will devour this first book in a new series that combines exciting magic and pulse-pounding suspense.
When Jax wakes up to a world without any people in it, he assumes it's the zombie apocalypse. But when he runs into his eighteen-year-old guardian, Riley Pendare, he learns that he's really in the eighth day—an extra day sandwiched between Wednesday and Thursday. Some people—like Jax and Riley—are Transitioners, able to live in all eight days, while others, including Evangeline, the elusive teenage girl who's been hiding in the house next door, exist only on this special day.


I love this book so much I'm giving away a copy to one lucky commenter.

PS That guy looking at you is a Herring Gull, seen in the Mills aka Damariscotta Mills. Photograph courtesy of the son.


  1. Congratulations, Dianne! You proved you could write beyond your genere and be successful.

  2. So very glad Dianne wrote outside her genre because The Eighth Day is such a fantastic story. Let someone else win since I already got an ARC to giveaway.

  3. Well, you know I have already read and loved this book... so don't include me in the winner possible pool.

    I think some of my characters are in full-on mutiny now. Thank you for this insight.

  4. "When the characters in my WIP launch a mutiny, I should surrender immediately." <---This. Yes. I agree with this wholeheartedly. Now, anyway. It did take a while for me to learn that lesson.

    Congrats, Dianne! Best of luck to you.

  5. Thank you, Diane for sharing your fantastic writerly journey! Glad your characters and genre mutinied! Now you have another great adventure ahead! All the best! Take care

  6. Funny how ideas work, huh?

  7. It's so good to know that branding isn't a coffin. I added The Eighth Day on my son's gift list. I think he'll like it.

  8. Thanks for hosting me here, Marcy! And thanks to all who commented! Yes, I think branding is nonsense. Yes, surrender at once to mutinies. Yes, Patchi -- I hope your son would like The Eighth Day!

  9. Those pesky characters are always right, aren't they? I'm learning to listen to my gut too. Can't wait to read this one! :)

  10. The creative process is a process that has it's own little road. We are but pawns upon it if we're really ready to be creative.

  11. congrats to Dianne on her book, lovely cover too!
    Marcy, those seagulls in your banner look so self-satisfied :)

  12. This story sounds awesome! I've often wished for an eighth day every week.

    Congrats on losing the battle :)

    Hi, Marcy!

  13. That's wonderful! I've written an MG fantasy, an adult historical novel, and a contemporary YA, so I totally get refusing to be pigeonholed. This book looks fantastic, I'm adding it to my son's wish list.

  14. I'm reading this right now (and loving it!), but it's a library copy, so please enter me in the giveaway.

  15. This is on my TBR list...waiting patiently! :)


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