Interview with the dynamic duo, Danica Avery, co-authors of "Redemption" and "My Unexpected Valentine.
“As if their hearts had been muted and were finally free to sing...” - My Unexpected Valentine
When did you first begin writing? D: I started writing in high school. I’m not sure what year. I wrote some stories for English class, and for a hobby, I wrote wrestling fan fiction with my friends. I wrote a bit of poetry, and a song or two, before it blossomed into role-playing online. Which is how I met A.
A: I’m a little embarrassed to say I didn’t start writing until I started forum role-playing, in my senior year of high school. Stepping into the shoes of a character opened my eyes to how much fun writing could be. It turned into something I would do for hours every day, and my talent grew from shameful one line posts to the novels we’re writing today. This just goes to show that you don’t have to be writing your entire life to be successful. You just need to dedicate yourself to it.
Tell us about an "My Unexpected Valentine." A: This is a second chance romance set around Valentine’s Day, but it’s really the kind of story that could be enjoyed at any time of year. It’s about two people who hated each other in high school and are reunited as adults by a dating app. This one was fun to write because we really put bits of ourselves into the characters of Emily and Nolan. Small things, that influenced their personalities and interests. Nolan, our hunky male lead, is charming and funny. Always joking around. My influence on him came in his interests. He’s a science fiction author, which is one of my favorite genres to read, and he enjoys board games and comics. At one point, he’s reading an Uncanny X-Men comic, and that’s actually a nod to the first graphic novel that my co-author D and I ever read. As for Emily, our career-driven female lead, she took influences from D. Like my co-author, Emily’s independent and a little tomboyish, with a love for the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. She also has a passion for underwater things, like sea turtles and aquatic life, and she finds the water peaceful. Yet even though these two characters took pieces of us, they developed into so much more. They really came to life on the pages. They have amazing chemistry together and we think people will enjoy reading their journey together. Tell us about "Redemption." D: Redemption is a story about a man who has seemingly lost everything. After being shunned by the people of Heart’s Peak, Burley Johnson became a recluse. His only friends are Old Man Bennett, who lives next door and gives him a job on his horse farm, and Luka, his best friend who works at the Piggly Wiggly and delivers his groceries. When Bennett dies, it seems like Burley truly has lost everything. The story starts when Bennett’s granddaughter shows up to claim the farm. Dove Donoghue walks into Burley’s life, with plans to sell the farm and put him out of a job. An independent city girl and a brooding mountain man, neither one of them expected to fall for each other... but when they do, Burley has to find out if their love is strong enough to survive the dark secret of his past. I just want to say, for our first book, this one came together so easily. Everything fell right into place. The small town setting is something both of us could relate to, and it made a perfect setting for a romance story. Like My Unexpected Valentine, you’ll find pieces of us sprinkled throughout the book. Burley’s dog, BD, is a mix between the dog my dad had when I was a kid and the various black dogs I’ve owned throughout my life. This book is much darker than My Unexpected Valentine. It has a bit of a mystery to it revolving around Burley’s past. I think that’s what makes it a fun read, though. It keeps you guessing.
What is it like co-writing together? D: Co-writing is really fun. It’s something we’ve been doing together for going on 20 years. It’s really nice to have someone to collaborate with. I’m the creative thinker of the two of us, so I usually come up with the plot ideas, where as A handles all the technical details. I set the outline for the story, and she helps fill in the gaps. We’ve been doing this for so many years, it’s like a routine now. Co-writing is also fun because you don’t have to do all of the writing yourself. Writing goes by much quicker when writing with a partner.
A: Co-writing is so different from writing alone. When you’re writing alone, everything falls on you. The plot, the flow, the character development. All writers have their strengths and weaknesses, and co-writing takes advantage of that. She helps my chapters in the areas where I struggle, while I help hers in the areas I excel. It’s a great balance and it truly makes our writing better. It’s like having a brainstormer, critique partner, and beta reader, all rolled into one.
What is your advice for other writers? D: My advice to other writers is to keep writing. Even when it feels like your writing is coming out terrible, the more you write, the better you will become. When I look back at some of my first pieces of work, it’s awful. I’m like, how could I have written something that bad? Even if I look back just three years from now, I can see the difference in then and now. The more I write, the more I’m constantly improving. The key to it is to not give up. Even if it seems like no one believes in you, you will get better, and there will be someone out there, who will want to read your work.
A: Definitely agree with what D said, and I want to add that research is your friend. Not sure if you’re using a word or phrase correctly? Look it up. Don’t know about that punctuation? Look it up. It may seem minor, but the more little things you look up, the more you’re training yourself to be a better writer.
What inspired your current novel? A: I spoke earlier about how the characters were inspired by us in ways, but the plot itself didn’t have any one specific thing that inspired it. It was one of our stories that just grew as we discussed it. I really wanted to do a Valentine’s Day book and had the loose idea of it involving a blind date dating app. Sounds fun, right? We went through a lot of different ideas from there, before our brainstorming settled on two people who knew each other and didn’t like each other. We took that plot line and ran with it.
“Sometimes...fairy tales come true...” - My Unexpected Valentine
Which author(s) inspires you the most? D: The one author that has inspired me the most is Stephen King. Every book I read by him just astounds me. His creativity is out of this world. His stories are unique and different. His characters feel real, and it’s so easy to fall in love with them. I doubt I will ever truly be the amazing writer that he is, but every time I read one of his books, I’m thinking to myself, man, if only I could write like this someday.
A: Two authors come to mind. The first is Patricia Briggs. She wrote the Mercy Thompson series, with the spin-off Alpha and Omega series. They’re supernatural stories with shifters, werewolves, vampires, fairies, and all sorts of other mythical creatures. I love her books, her writing, and that’s exactly what I hope to have someday. Before we were published, D and I have been working for many years on a supernatural series of our own. I won’t share the name of it yet, but it’s going to be massive. I see Briggs’ success with her supernatural world and it gives me such hope for our own series. The other author is Brandon Sanderson. The first book of his I read was The Way of Kings and I was blown away. The way he wrote his characters and the way his many plotlines intertwine is just so freaking impressive. I would love to release books as complex and well crafted as his.
What do you do when you have writer's block? D: I’ll be honest, I’m lucky and I don’t really get writer’s block all that often. If I’m stumped on something, I like to brainstorm in the shower. I know it sounds silly, but some of our best story ideas have come from my shower brainstorming time. Listening to music also helps. The music can’t have words, though. Words distract me. Instrumental music is the best.
A: The most common advice I’ve seen for writer’s block is to step away from it, which I agree does work. For me personally, what also helps is to get inspired by other sources. Watch a show or movie that has the same theme or setting as your work. Listen to music with lyrics that you can associate with your characters. You may be surprised how much this helps. (The inspiration song for Redemption is Breathe by Anna Nalick, by the way.)
Tell us about some of your upcoming projects. A: Next we’re going to be working on the sequel to Redemption. It doesn’t have a title yet, but it will be about Dove and Burley’s best friends, Aria and Luka. They took a bit of an interest in each other in Redemption, except she lives in New York City while he’s in the mountain town of Heart’s Peak. When Aria comes back for a visit, the sparks are still there, but their personalities clash. It’s going to be more of an opposites attract kind of romance with the leads butting heads. It’ll be cool, though, because Burley and Dove will be around in the background. We also have a third book in this series planned, that we’ll work on much later this year.
D: After the second Heart’s Peak book, we plan to start a new series. It will be set in a supernatural world. We actually have two different supernatural worlds we plan to turn into books. This one is more magical and has fantasy creatures mixed in, so it’s very vast and open for many different stories. I won’t give away much, but the first story we’re planning to start with will have a man on the run for murder, who gets involved with a werewolf that works at a bar in a small town in Colorado.