Author Spotlight – Danielle E. Shipley
Joining us for today’s Author Spotlight is Danielle E. Shipley!
Danielle E. Shipley – author of fairy tales retold, legends reimagined, and other expressions of wishful thinking. In the past, she’s worked as a librarian in a kindergarten, a Towne Crier in a Renaissance Faire, and a butler in Germany. In another universe, she’s a tenor on Broadway, a wandering minstrel, or at the very least a Dark Lord singing about world domination. Born, raised, and homeschooled in the Chicago area, she now resides primarily in realms of her own making, along with her crazy crew of character children. She hopes to ultimately retire to a private immortal forest. But first, there are stories to make. Check out her work at: deshipley.com
Welcome to the Hive, Danielle. Let’s start small: tell us about a great book you’ve read recently!
One of my more interesting recent reads was “The Beast Player” by Nahoko Uehashi, about an orphaned girl who taught herself to communicate with fantastical animals via harp. I like finding the occasional tale on the YA shelf that’s been translated from another language (“The Beast Player” was first written in Japanese), because it means a chance to expose myself to voices that aren’t necessarily steeped in an American (or some other English-dominant country’s) point of view. It can make for a welcome break from predictability.
Okay, time to escalate things: reality warps and you suddenly find yourself leading a D&D-style party through a monster-infested dungeon. What character class are you, and what’s your weapon of choice?
DEFINITELY a bard! My minstrel characters and I have trained long and hard, for this! (…Or just so I’m able to transcribe their works in my books without butchering everything. Whichever.) As for weaponry, that’s a tougher choice. Longbow like Robin Hood, or epic sword like Aragorn?… Hmm. Since I’m not actually any good at wielding either, maybe I’ll try to pick up a quarterstaff etched with runes of power the next time the party makes a pit stop.
When you’re not trawling through dungeons, how do you like to work? (In silence, with music, or serenaded by the damned souls of a thousand dead shrimps? Do you prefer to type or to hand-write? Are you an architect or a gardener? A plotter or a pantser? D’you write in your underwear, or in a deep-sea diver’s suit?) Tell us a little bit about your writing method!
I find wordsmithery most easily accomplished in either silence or with gentle instrumental music in the background. (Lyrics = distraction.) As a teen, I could journal stories for hours by hand, but nowadays I far prefer typing all the way from the planning stage to the finalized draft. For a super short piece of flash fiction, I don’t mind winging it without a roadmap. For anything longer, my brainstorming documents can reach novella length all by themselves! I don’t mind knowing how a story will end before I get there, for I’ve learned the journey can still find plenty of ways to surprise me.
What (or who) are your most significant fantasy influences? Are there any creators whom you dream of working with someday?
Sometimes I feel I owe my greatest artistic debt to Disney’s animated musicals. (That would certainly account for why so many of my characters think breaking out into song on the page is a normal thing to do.) I was well into my teens before I really developed a taste for fantasy as a literary genre; prior to that, my favorite was mystery! But having since then consumed an abundant variety of fantasy books for all age brackets, I would probably die and race back with a ghostly quill to collaborate with author Maggie Stiefvater. And, to bring it full circle, if acclaimed Disney-affiliated composer Alan Menken ever wanted to partner with me in turning my work into a musical, I’d be game!
What was the last thing you watched on TV and why did you choose to watch it? Alternatively, what games have you enjoyed recently?
My housemate and I don’t actually own a TV, since our laptops can give us access to almost anything we want to view. That being said, we were quick to use aforesaid laptops to jump on the “Good Omens” miniseries bandwagon. Housemate (aka fellow fantasy author Tirzah Duncan; look her up, she’s got skills) had recently read the book it’s based upon, and has some while been a fan of David Tennant, so it was my pleasure to join her in giving the show a try. 6-episode story short, we kind of adored it, and are already speculating how best to achieve Aziraphale and Crowley cosplays.
The world shifts, and you find yourself with an extra day on your hands during which you’re not allowed to write. How do you choose to spend the day?
Sounds like a good day to get some reading done! I’ll probably throw in some time spent playing around on my lute and/or piano, as well. And if the weather is agreeable, I should find a woodsy-and-watery place to take a nice long walk; gotta work in that soul restoration when you can!
Can you tell us a little something about your current work(s) in progress?
I call it #CamelotWIP – more officially titled “The Once and Future Camelot”. While my Outlaws of Avalon trilogy was the work of my heart, this companion novel somehow strikes an even deeper chord of my being. (I can only assume it’s to do with my as-yet-unproven Faerie blood.)
The story’s gist is this: Arthur Pendragon and a select few members of his legendary court are living in a modern-day Renaissance Faire – aka the Isle of Avalon in disguise – waiting for the ‘future’ part of Arthur’s once-and-future kingship to get started already. But standing between them and their destiny is a whole lot of psychological trauma. Also, dragons.
I haven’t set a hard release date yet, but am hoping to launch this magnificent beast of a book into the world before year’s end. Stand by, everyone!
What’s the most (and/or least) helpful piece of writing advice you’ve ever received?
Of the tips making the rounds, perhaps my favorite is, “Write what you want to read.” Not only does it remind us to give our time and effort to that which sparks our joy, it can serve as a useful study guide when consuming another author’s work. I may ask Reader Me, “Why am I liking/disliking this story so much? What’s making it work, and what’s not? Which elements do I want to see more of in my own art, and which would I rather avoid?” And then Writer Me can keep those impressions in mind during the creation process, resulting in a product much less likely to displease me down the road.
Every writer encounters stumbling blocks, be it a difficult chapter, challenging subject matter or just starting a new project. How do you motivate yourself on days when you don’t want to write?
‘Tis the same motivation behind just about anything I do: The grim suspicion that, if I don’t just suck it up and do the thing now, it may never get done.
If you could visit any country at any point in history, where/when would you go, and why?
My gut reaction screams, “ROBIN HOOD-ERA ENGLAND!” But I already know medieval feudalism and I wouldn’t like each other. On second instinct, I would be curious to visit the Garden of the Eden, pre-Fall of Man. Just how perfect was it? What does an uncorrupted world even look or smell like? Were there any bugs back then, or am I right to shake my fist at mosquitoes as a direct descendant of sin? Plus I wouldn’t have to worry about what to wear to blend in, since clothing had yet to come into style.
Great answer! Tell us about a book that’s excellent, but underappreciated or obscure.
Based on the lack of stunning fan art I’ve seen for it, not nearly enough people are obsessed with the Eli Moonpress series by Rachel Aaron. And I mean, why in the world not?? Eli’s a charming rogue of a thief, and a wizard! His adventure companion’s sword is a cool character in its own right! Demonseeds, ghost hounds, the Lord of frikkin’ Storms…! I’ve so overdue for a reread of these books, it’s not funny.
Finally, would you be so kind as to dazzle us with an elevator pitch? Why should readers check out your work?
The best of reasons come in threes, and mine, I think, come down to these: Witty and lyrical prose; tales as old as time, infused with originality; and characters that live and breathe … sometimes even after they’ve died.
Brilliant. Thanks again for joining us, Danielle, and good luck with #CamelotWIP!
Danielle E. Shipley is the author of THE WILDERHARK TALES and the OUTLAWS OF AVALON series, available now.