Interview with DN Bryn (ODDER STILL)
D.N. Bryn is a queer, disabled author of speculative fiction and fantasy romance. When not writing, they study infectious diseases in their hometown of San Diego, where they enjoy basking in the Santa Ana winds, hiking the brush-heavy slopes, and eating too many tacos.
Welcome to the Hive! Let’s start with the basics: tell us about your new book, Odder Still – why should readers check it out?
Thank you so much for having me!
Odder Still is the start of a five-book fantasy series with 1930’s steampunk-inspired technology, reimagined mythical species, and a central achillean (M/M) romance. It follows a lonely eccentric as he navigates an anti-capitalist revolution where both sides want to dissect him for the snarky parasite latched to his brainstem, with a dashing but manipulative philanthropist as his only hope of staying alive. The story’s highlights include an underwater steampunk city of selkies, an unconventional friendship with a sentient parasite, and a murder mystery!
Can you tell us a bit more about your characters? Do you have a favourite type of character you enjoy writing?
My main character in Odder Still exhibits an almost Disney-villain level of dramatics (including an obsession with fishnets) but underneath it all he’s tired and lonely and struggles with chronic depression. I won’t spoil anything, but his confident and slightly pretentious love interest is also covering his own deeper fears and struggles. I love these kinds of complicated characters who work so hard to present a certain image to the world while inside there’s so much more to them… and I love when these hidden parts of them are slowly revealed to their lovers and friends as they learn to be more vulnerable 😉
Give us a glimpse into the world of These Treacherous Tides – is your world building inspired by anything specific?
The world of These Treacherous Tides is heavily inspired by 1930s fashion and technology but with a steampunk-style twist that incorporates both steam-based energy and a unique energy source that appears almost like magic in the early books before more of its history is revealed. There are also a multitude of different sentient species in this universe, including merfolk like selkies and sirens, fairy-types, nagas, and more! Some have good relationships with their neighboring populations and some are engaged in long-standing conflicts.
We always appreciate a beautiful book cover! How involved in the process were you? Was there a particular aesthetic you hoped they’d portray?
Laya Rose did an amazing job on the Odder Still cover! We bounced it back and forth quite a lot to tweak little details, but Laya was really great at taking my initial vision and turning it into a stunning image right away. We didn’t have a particular aesthetic in mind, as much as just wanting the parasite to be prominently displayed while also getting in a view of the city (and Rubem’s fishnets!) and I think those all turned out splendidly.
Let’s talk about the writing process; do you have a process? Tell us a little something about how your story comes together.
I have a hundred and one different processes and each book is unique. For Odder Still, I originally had a much simpler selkie/human romance in mind. At the end of writing the book that now functions like a prequel, Once Stolen, I thought it would be cool to slot one of the side characters from that book in as the human in the selkie/human romance of Odder Still, since his story seemed like it had just started and I wanted to see where it might go. Having that character as the protagonist transformed the book into something very different from what I’d initially imagined. There were still a lot of aspects (like a certain secret lab *wink*) that weren’t in the final outline, and the first couple drafts had a drastically different ending that would have taken the series in a direction I just wasn’t vibing with. I’m really happy with how everything developed in the end though; this is a book I can proudly say that, while not perfect, is exactly the story it needs to be.
We see such varying opinions from authors when it comes to the time of editing their books. How have you found the editing process? Enjoyable, stressful or satisfying?
Editing is always all three for me. For a book as long and complicated as Odder Still, I generally need three different three-week editing rounds for major rewrites, then another two weeks to clean up the prose. This can be challenging when a book needs to come out on a quick deadline because I can’t just do these editing rounds back-to-back without “overheating” so to speak. It takes some elaborate scheduling to fit them in between the writing and editing of other books.
What (or who) are your most significant fantasy/sci-fi influences?
Nature is probably my most significant influence! There’s so many wild and amazing things that our own world has developed, and I love taking those and running wild with them. I’m also eternally inspired by all kind of fictional parasite and possession-style friendships, the way Martha Wells manages to pack so much emotion, laughs, and plot into such tiny Murderbot bundles, and N.K. Jemisin’s incredible ability to start a book with the story already rolling at high speed.
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?
I don’t let myself write on Saturdays because I spend 6-10 hours doing random marketing prep-work, does that count? XD My ultimate non-writing day is to take a long hike in the morning and spend the afternoon sitting on the patio at a vineyard sipping good wine. (A certain Odder Still main character gets his affection for red wine and nature from me…)
One of our favourite questions here on the Fantasy Hive: which fantastical creature would you ride into battle and why?
A giant elk. No reason, I just really love them.
That is fair enough!
Tell us about a book you love. Any hidden gems?
Just one?! Here are some gems I’ve loved over the last couple years (some more hidden than others). For those who like gritty, first-person sci fi that’s intense and powerful and sapphic, try The Space Between Worlds by Micaiah Johnson. For M/M sci fi romance that has a strong mystery plot beneath it, try Winter’s Orbit by Everina Maxwell. For a more laid-back, M/M fantasy drama with a lot of heart, try Tabitha O’Connell’s Structural Integrity. Or, if you want an M/M romance that’s haunting and problematic in a juicy, religious horror that will creep into your soul try The Bayou by Arden Powell.
Can you tell us a little something about your current work(s) in progress? Have you any upcoming projects which you can share?
I have two main projects right now.
One of them is the continuation of the Odder Still sub-series, No-Man’s Lander, along with an interlude book from a different character’s pov. If all goes well, one of these books should come out every summer until 2027. The No-Man’s Lander books will feature the Odder Still main couple as they travel, encountering new political mayhem and mythological monsters and expanding on the mysterious and often overlooked minor magic of the world, while the interlude, Ever Death, explores where the major magic has come from with an eco-horror survivalist tone.
My other project is an eight-book series of achillean vampire romances taking place in a modern, fictional Californian city where a shady pharmaceutical company is running experiments on vampires. These are horny romps with a little angst and a lot of laughs, where each book features a new romantic pairing but follows a larger over-arching story of justice and revenge. There should be one coming out every fall and spring starting this October.
Are you planning anything fun to celebrate Odder Still’s release? Do you have any upcoming virtual events our readers may be interested in?
I have a discord server for the These Treacherous Tides books where I’ll be hosting an ice-breaker event later in June featuring questions based on fun exclusive facts about the Odder Still characters and setting! You can find a link to this server through my website.
Finally, what is the one thing you hope readers take away from your writing?
For all my readers, joy and hope and sometimes a few tears, and for my queer and disabled readers specifically, the knowledge that they can live all the wild and beautiful adventures that they’ve been written out of for so many centuries.
Thank you so much for joining us today!
Odder Still is out on 9th June and is available to pre-order from