My guest today is Lisa Dunn, author of the YA Fantasy series, The Chasmaria Chronicles.
Lisa, thank you for joining me today. Tell us a little bit about yourself:
I was born in Michigan, raised in Florida, reside in South Carolina, and dream of settling down in a remote cottage on a wild, windswept shore where I can soak up vast beauty and pour it into stories that move readers’ souls. A great-aunt referred to my grandmother as “a rare mix of mystic and common sense,” and I may have inherited more than my fair share of that. Even I can’t predict whether I’ll meet a tragic situation with tears, philosophy, or bizarre humor. Truthfully, it’s usually a socially awkward combination of all three.
What is your series about?
THE CHASMARIA CHRONICLES is a trilogy that follows Grit of Berth and Stone from a village that puts self above all to a kingdom where truth, goodness, and beauty reign. In the sequel to the series, HEARKEN THE SONG OF KILCARRAIG, readers journey into a monster-infested land with two of the trilogy’s supporting characters taking the lead. HEARKEN is all about holding onto hope despite our failures and devastating circumstances.
What is the inspiration behind your books?
THE CHASMARIA CHRONICLES sought to answer the questions of what a world without love would look like and what would happen if love crashed into it.
HEARKEN THE SONG OF KILCARRAIG addresses deserts of faith—the fears, regrets, guilts, and sorrows we bury deep in our hearts and that stand in the way of hope. The bulk of the book was written during the isolation and uncertainty of the early phase of the pandemic, and I think that helped me get a little deeper into the mindset of Clan Crowley, as well as to understand Slate’s frustration with them and Bard’s love for them—in short, to grasp the reality that most of us, even if we disagree, are just doing the best we can with where we are and what we have.
Now for some questions that readers want to know the answers to:
What was the catalyst for your interest in writing?
I grew up surrounded by books. My father tucked my sisters and me into bed with impromptu tales peopled with characters from C.S. Lewis and George MacDonald and characters of his own imagining. I don’t remember a time when I wasn’t playing with stories in my head. It shouldn’t have been a surprise when one actually made it onto paper, but it was a big, wonderful surprise when one, two, three, and now four made it into the hands of readers I’ve never even met.
Were there any surprises that came up as you wrote your story?
Always. I tend to have a relatively decent idea of where a story is headed before I start, but I never fail to discover something I hadn’t anticipated in a character, whether it be a motivation, a fear, or a facet of their background or nature that changes everything. For example, when I first conceived the plot for HEARKEN, I imagined Slate as an upbeat, ambitious young man, but when I started writing in earnest, the events of the trilogy hit hard, and I realized that Slate had a lot of baggage to deal with. The same applies to Bard. I thought he was a sweet, lighthearted poet, but the boy has some serious issues. Getting to the truth of who each of these characters is was a challenge, but one I hope paid off in the end.
How did you come up with the names of your hero and/or heroine?
I get this question a lot, probably because I was very intentional in naming the characters in the trilogy. You’ll have to read the books to find out the significance of individual names, but I’ll say this much: Grit’s community waits until a baby’s first birthday to bestow a name, which the dame (mother) bases upon characteristics she’s observed in the infant. The names aren’t necessarily complimentary. In fact, some of them are downright rude. But each name winds up having a deeper meaning that offers a sense of hope and redemption to the one carrying the name.
What does your family think of your writing?
It’s a mixed bag, actually, but I’m okay with that. I don’t expect everyone I know to read my work, and some of them haven’t. Nor do I expect everyone to enjoy my work. Most, but not all, have enjoyed my books, but I don’t take it personally if they don’t, knowing we all have our own preferences. My daughter, for example, wasn’t a fan of my Fantasy, but she is THE BIGGEST FAN of an unpublished Contemporary Young Adult story for which I’m currently seeking publication. The important thing is that every single one of my family members—husband, children, siblings, mother, in-laws, and beyond—have been supportive in different ways, granting me time to write, listening to me untangle plot and character development knots and challenging me in the process, buying books, recommending them to others, and gushing, gushing, gushing.
Who was the first person you allowed to read your completed book?
My sister has been the first reader of most of my books, chapter by chapter in the beginning. She has a knack for pointing out weaknesses and nudging me deeper into the heart of whatever story I’m writing. After having her at my side all the way through the Chasmaria trilogy, it was actually kind of terrifying to send HEARKEN into the world without her feedback. I was enormously relieved when she remarked that it was the best book yet.
Do you have a favorite author or book?
That award is going to have to go to A SEPARATE PEACE. John Knowles has a gift for writing deep, complex, incredibly human characters, characters who tell us so much about the human condition, and each time I’ve read A SEPARATE PEACE, Knowles digs deeper into my heart.
Thank you for joining us today, Lisa.
What’s next for you as an author?
I am currently seeking a literary agent to represent the Contemporary YA novel that turned my daughter into a fan. After that, I have a completed epistolary YA novel that deals with who we are and how we and others perceive ourselves. Finally, I’m working on a coming of age, twisted fairy tale that fans of ONCE UPON A TIME and INTO THE WOODS will love.