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Monday, May 21, 2012

Author Interview - Danielle Ackley-McPhail

Award-winning author Danielle Ackley-McPhail has worked both sides of the publishing industry for over seventeen years. Her works include the urban fantasies, Yesterday's Dreams, Tomorrow's Memories, the upcoming Today’s Promise, and The Halfling’s Court, and the writers guide, The Literary Handyman. She edits the Bad-Ass Faeries anthologies and Dragon’s Lure, and has contributed to numerous other anthologies.

She is a member of The Garden State Horror Writers, the New Jersey Authors Network, and Broad Universe, a writer’s organization focusing on promoting the works of women authors in the speculative genres. She can be found on LiveJournal (damcphail, lit_handyman), Facebook (Danielle Ackley-McPhail), and Twitter (DMcPhail). Learn more at

How can we find you?

Website and/or blog,,
Amazon author page

Tell us about your writing - What genre do you prefer to write? What books, stories, other publications that you've written are your personal favorites? Anything new coming up?

Oh my goodness, Well, I like to write a bit of everything, mostly because I get so many ideas and also don’t want to become pigeon holed, but primarily I write urban fantasy. There are two reasons for this. One, it is easier to get readers to accept your fantastic elements when they are couched in the familiar. And two, I can write the world around me pretty effortlessly, where with pure fantasy I have to figure out the world first. Now I’m not adverse to doing that, but I get way more ideas that fit in the day-to-day than take place in their own world. Actually, though, I really like fiction that melds the two. All my novels seem to be that way. My favorite of those already published is The Halfling’s Court: A Bad-Ass Faerie Tale where I contrast a modern-day biker bar with both Avalon and Underhill. My other novel series, The Eternal Cycle Trilogy, is the same way, in a manner of speaking. The first book, Yesterday’s Dreams, takes place completely in New York City, but with the Sidhe—Irish Elves—living among us. In book two, Tomorrow’s Memories, the action is in both New York and Ireland—modern-day and Tír na nÓg, which is one of the lands of the Sidhe. And in Today’s Promise, the last and newest book in the series, which releases in May 2012, the action takes place primarily in Tír na nÓg, with forays into modern-day Ireland. In addition to including fantasy with “reality” I also love to incorporate aspects of mythology in all things I write. Even if it is just as a name for a ship or character that has added significance for those who get the reference. It gives depth to the work. I do the same thing with modern references. After all, who doesn’t like to get the in-joke?

What about you as a person? What do you do to relax? Favorite movies or tv shows? Hobbies?

Relax? What’s that? Sorry…couldn’t resist. I actually keep very busy (or end up kept very busy…subtle difference, but there is one). I have a day job. I work for a Medical Publisher. On top of that I do Promotions and Typesetting for Dark Quest Books. Then I get to write. When I’m not doing any of that—or sleeping—I love to watch cooking shows…the competition type like Iron Chef or Chopped, and my new favorite show is Face Off, another competition show, only for make-up artists. Of course, I don’t watch a lot of TV. Not just because of the time issue, but because most of it disgusts me on a moral or intelligence level. What I turn to in odd moments of free time are book, games, and crafts. I love to sew, cook, and make things. Anything crafty. Oh, and I scritch my cats, though that likely falls under the venue of being kept busy…I have three of them after all, and they are all very demanding of my scritches.

What gets your creative juices going? Do you write to a music, and do you want to share your playlist?

I do like to listen to appropriate music when I am writing…sometimes. Other times it just makes me tense and hard to focus. Can’t explain it. When I do have music in the background my default is Celtic instrumentals, or songs sung in Irish. Those get me in the right mindset without distracting me. I’ve also been known to listen to science fiction movie soundtracks when I’m writing the sci fi because mostly I write military science fiction and a good rousing militant orchestration can really ramp up the adrenaline.

"All writers must have cats, especially if they write fantasy or speculative fiction." Do you have a stand on this one? Any cute pictures of your kitty or other pet?

Oh! Oh, you opened the floodgate here…I’ve had nine cats over my lifetime that were unequivocally mine…or rather, I was or am theirs. I love all animals, but there is something particularly satisfying by being loved by a cat, and I do mean loved, not tolerated or accepted. Currently I have four and they really do vie for my time, insisting to sit next to me…or on me, sleeping on my pillow or pinning my legs, at the door obviously waiting for me when I get home. They even nursed me when I had surgery back in November. Though that mainly consisted of all three of my boys sleeping around me in the room they usually aren’t allowed to go into, occasionally waking up for scritches, but still…If I could only have one type of animal ever, it would be a cat. Now that is completely aside from any part of being a writer. I was not issued a kitten with my union card or anything, but if you think about it a cat is a much more logical pet for someone who often gets lost in their own worlds for hours on end. They are completely fine being left to their own devices (though whether or not you’ll be happy with what they devise is another matter). They don’t have to be walked, food can be left down for them, and they are capable of exerting what they see as their attention rights generally in a restrained and dignified manner…which can seldom be said for a dog.

But now, have you noted how many authors INCLUDE cats in their fiction? That is definitely one thing I’ve noted in my fiction, particularly the fantasy. I have several different universes going and more of them have a cat in there somewhere, whereas I only have one dog… I think only part of the reason is my obvious affinity and familiarity with them. The other reason I include cats is because most books need a release valve somewhere and that has generally taken the form of a cat for me. Calm, serene, but also endearing and funny as all get-out when they decide to be playful or sweet. This is most prevalent in all three books in the Eternal Cycle series, though more so in Yesterday’s Dreams than the other two. I regularly get comments from readers that they just love Pixie, Kara O’Keefe’s cat, and Beag Scath, a sprite who often takes the form of a cat. I have to admit the mischievous aspect of both creatures was a natural match.

As for pictures…!

What organizations do you recommend for those wanting to become writers? Any advice you'd like to share about writing?

You know, I’ve belonged to a number of organizations over the years. Some are definitely more effective than others. However, if I had to choose just one group to belong to (of those I already have been a member) it would be Broad Universe. For those who haven’t heard of it before, it is an international organization founded to promote the works of women authors in the speculative genres. Not only is their membership fee extremely reasonable, but the group is active in pursuing its goal. Not only do they have a standing catalog of members publications on line, but they distribute print catalogs of the year’s new releases at events and to organizations, they have a visible presence at genre conventions, as well as at professional conferences related to books and publishing. The members are a rich source of both experience and opportunity for promoting and publishing. I have never been a part of a more well-run, helpful, and productive organization than this one. Another thing that I have not had to endure with this group, as I have with every other one I’ve been in to some degree, is bickering and divisiveness among the members. Both public and private communications have always been constructive and supportive. Not to say we all always agree with one another, but discussions are monitored and handled in a professional, respectful manner.

As for advice, if you want it, go for it, but it takes a lot of luck and hard work to achieve major success in this industry, so don’t expect to sit back and have stardom just happen. There are cases of run-away successes, but most of us work our butts off making a name for ourselves. It never ends and there are few authors who can actually afford to quit their day jobs just to write (unless, of course, they are independently wealthy or have a spouse to be the primary bread winner.) This isn’t to warn the aspiring author away, but to warn them to have a realistic view.

What writers inspired you to become an author?

You know, it didn’t work that way for me. I devoured books from a very early age, but I never closed a cover on one and said “I want to do that.” However, I did often close many a cover at the last page and say “I wish there was more story.” I reached the point where I would continue my favorite books in my head—with myself added to the cast of characters, of course. From there it was a short step to writing my own stories, something that eventually was required by school assignments anyway. Once that happened and I started to get constructive feedback there was no stopping me. I was bit good and hard. When I was younger it was mostly poetry, but I think that was because I hadn’t been bitten by the speculative bug yet and I didn’t have the staying power to finish a story or novel, but poetry was quick and gratifying and spoke to the lyrical nature of a lot of my writing, even the prose.  

Any special appearances or events coming up that you want to mention?

I am very happy to share that the third and final novel in my Eternal Cycle series will be released at Balticon, and the first two books of the series will likewise be re-released by Dark Quest Books to coincide with that. People have been waiting for book three, Today’s Promise for a very long time. In fact the tenth anniversary of when the first book, Yesterday’s Dreams, was first published just passed, which makes it kind of fitting to wrap things up now. But back to the event…

It has become something of a Balticon tradition for me to hold a massive launch party the Sunday of the con. This year is no different. The Full Circle Launch will take place on May 27, from 7pm to 9pm in the Garden Room at the Hunt Valley Marriot in Hunt Valley, MD. In addition to the food, reading, and prizes we generally have, there will be a special mini concert featuring the fabulous SJ Tucker, as well as the paranormal folk musician, Jonah Knight, who will be performing songs based on the novels. We are really going all out to celebrate the series. The end has been a long time in coming and given that this is what started it all…

In addition to the novels the launch will feature other recent and new Dark Quest Books releases—such as James Chambers’ Corpse Fauna: The Dead Bear Witness, Michael J. Tresca’s Awfully Familiar, and Phoebe Matthews’ Vampire Disaster—as all the authors attending gather to celebrate the success of this venture in independent publishing.

Thanks so much for stopping by the Far Edge of Normal, Danielle. Best of luck with your launch party!

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