Happy Friday and Happy March, Friends!
I’m really excited for the chance to get to interview this author, because via social media, I’ve always admired her vivacity, kindness, and unapologetic fire! (And hey! We’re both ENFJs!) Please welcome the lovely Khaleesi-in-the-Making: Fallon DeMornay!
Hi Fallon! Thanks for your time! I like to start things off with a simple question: where are you at in your writing journey, and how did you get there?
I am currently in what is known as the 7th circle of submission Hell. My agent has two books out in the wild. One got close, but died at acquisitions. The other had shown promise but still no bites. It is a particularly stressful process, so for those of you who think it’s all easy after you ‘land representation’... Oh my sweet summer child, strap in. Because it gets so much harder!
Thank you for being so open about this -- I think this is one of those areas where of the publishing journal that isn't talked about enough!
As for how I got here, the short version: I started writing young (12) and it was EVERY SINGLE DAY but very closeted. I didn’t take it seriously until I was 25, so I attended workshops, conferences, joined various communities (Wattpad being one of them) and honed my craft/built my writing circle.
From there, I decided to rewrite a fantasy book I’d written when I was 17, so I took the essence of that story and started with a fresh blank page. Eight months later, that book went on to get me six amazing offers of rep, and brought me to my FANTABULOUS agent: Jim McCarthy.
Aw, Jim McCarthy is a great agent! Can you pitch your current WIP (work-in-progress)?
My current WIP is an adult space opera that was inspired by an MSWL tweet I saw meshing two shows I absolutely loved together: Firefly + Golden Girls.
This was the logline I’d sent to my agent that had him screaming at me to WRITE THIS BOOK:
22 year-old Nimah has to steal a ship, and band together a motely crew of geriatric women, plus a wheelchair bound pilot with a dark past, to save her notorious space pirate grandmother before she’s executed for intergalactic terrorism.
It’s been a fun book to write - and SLOW (because life happens), but I love the idea of having elderly women as space pirates and, in a world where women are not allowed to age gracefully, advocating that we can be fierce and fabulous even in our greying years.
Ooh, I love this concept!
My next one, that he’s equally excited about, is an adult contemporary inspired by real events that happened to me last year. I’ve dubbed it Project Karma, Hoe! And it’ll be about four half sisters dragging their deadbeat biological father through the mud with an Ocean’s 8 worthy heist and a lot of hi-jinks.
I didn't think anything could top geriatric space pirates, and now I stand corrected. I think this is such a cool thing to explore. Fallon, what--in a word or two--is your writing style?
Voice. I think that’s the only way I can sum it up in one word. Whenever I try to describe to someone what it’s like in my head, I usually get the most baffled expression because my characters actually speak to me. Usually they’re shouting - quite rudely - and I always joke that the one who is the loudest gets their story told.
My head is like a black room - no clear lines or boundaries - and then there’s this spotlight that clicks on and a character emerges into that pool of light. They’re almost always fully formed, rarely does that form change as I later write - and then they just start speaking to me. Sometimes I’ll zone out of a conversation because I get ‘pulled in’ so as a result, the thing I hear most from my CPs is how my dialogue ‘sounds so real’. And I guess, that’s because in a strange way, it is?
Strange in the best way, what a beautiful process. Of course, that makes me wonder about your favorite and least favorite parts of the process as a whole?
Writing on the days you don’t want to write - when the voices aren’t cooperating. When it feels like pulling teeth or you’re just SO SICK of it all you want to burn your book to the ground because you can’t tell if you’re making it better or worse? Getting through those hurdles are the hardest, but also the most rewarding.
I've been having a lot of those days recently, so this really speaks to me. Switching gears for a moment, if it's alright with you I want to talk about identity. How do you feel identity influences the stories you write, if at all?
Ok, I’m going to back peddle a bit here because this is an interesting question, and one I hadn’t really taken into consideration until a three-ish years ago.
When I was a teen I wrote fantasy, I was so fascinated by creating these unique and entirely different worlds, but as I got older - when I decided to write ‘seriously’ - I opted to flip over to adult contemporary romance (as that was what I was mostly reading since I was snatching books off my mom’s shelf). So I wrote A CR for the next five years, and loved it. My first novel landed me my first agent, went on to final in Harlequins SYTYCW contest in 2015, etc.
But what I hadn’t realized until the diversity conversation really blew up on Twitter among the YA community - and it shook me so hard - was to realize that when writing in contemporary my main characters were white (or bi-racial but SUPER white passing), whereas when I had written in fantasy as a teen - my characters/worlds were pretty diverse - still a lot of mainstream white coding BUT it was like a part of me somehow knew that in contemporary, there was no place for me or visible minorities, but fantasy was safe. I could be myself because it’s fantasy. No one could tell me I didn’t belong there.
But like I said, that conversation really rattled me to the core, and when I saw this issue reflected in my own writing I thought: Wow, Fallon. This has to change. You belong on the contemporary page every bit as much as you do in the fantasy. It made me realize just how coded we are as a society when it comes to anti-blackness, a lot of which I have spent the last four + years unpacking. And now that the rug had been yanked from under my feet, I saw things I hadn’t let myself see before. Things that I had so much trouble embracing as a child (my hair, my nose, my skin tone, etc) were all things about myself that were beautiful and to be loved, not buried or altered or ashamed of.
I grew up as a child feeling like I was a citizen without a country. Not white enough to be white, not black enough to be black, etc, so I challenge a lot of that in my writing now. The book that brought me to Jim was one I was TERRIFIED to write, because even for a fantasy, it pushed a lot of boundaries I’d never would have been brave enough to push had this conversation not happened - had the difficult and uncomfortable truths not been brought to life. I’ve unpacked SO MUCH and I know there is still so much more to go.
Thank you for being so open. I think a lot of "us" (as in People of Color across the board) were very fortunate to experience powerful movement that encouraged us to write diversely and bring our identities to the forefront. I want to talk now about writing alongside... well, life. How do you balance the two?
Haaaaaa!! Omg if you asked me two years ago, I would have had a very different answer, but transitioning into a new job/field has really shown me just how lucky I had it with my previous employment. So I haven’t been anywhere near as productive as I used to be.
Still working out a new process of how to juggle and balance life and writing, but the one thing that I feel has remained true is this: the book won’t write itself, and there’s never ever going to be ‘time’.
You have to carve it out wherever and whenever you can. And be consistent. GUARD your writing time fiercely. Be a little selfish, and don’t stress about dishes or laundry piling up over a weekend or two if it means getting words in. So long as the house isn’t burning down, your kids are fed and work tasks have been handled - take what you need for you.
Also, I think one thing that a lot of writers tend to forget is to not only make time to write, but to fill the well, too. Burnout is a bitch, and if you don’t recharge your batteries, you won’t be productive. Find things that lift your soul and bring you joy/fulfillment outside of the writing space all together. For me that’s dancing (salsa/bachata). Not only is it fantastic exercise, it gets me out of the house to socialize, gives me an excuse to dress up and the endorphins are AHMAZING.
This is something that's taken me a long time to understand, but I agree! (Super jealous that you get to dance!!) Another writing questions for you: how do you combat writer’s block and/or tough critiques of your writing?
Writer’s block is usually a case of either a) burnout or b) you’ve lost direction for the story and need to step back so your subconscious can untangle the knot. When that happens, I try to shift gears. Sometimes I have a procrastination project in a diff genre, that will allow me to keep writing but because it’s a new genre I’m not snagged over the same issues that are tripping me up in the main (ie: contemporary doesn’t have the same world building potholes as fantasy. It’s comfortable and familiar because it’s real life vs imaging a whole new world/society). And sometimes just spending an hour in that diff genre/reading a book or watching a few episodes of a TV show can help me shake off the rust so I can dive back into my main WIP.
When it comes to negative critiques, I’ve always had thick skin. I shred when I’m CPing for others - always with love and I’m equally generous with my praise as I am with my critiques, and I only CP for those who I know can handle my claws. So when I hand over my baby, I’m prepared to have it returned to me hemorrhaging.
Oh God. haha I've never heard critique described this way and yet... I ... love it?
I want you to show me every flaw. Gimme, I can take it. I can’t really recall a time when someone’s critique profoundly affected me - maybe because I’m proactive in feeling out a CP relationship prior, so anyone who does shred my pages, I know it’s a place of love and not harm? I tell myself, better to hear it from a CP than an editor or EVEN BETTER - the public/readers. Because at this stage I can revise. I can tweak. I can rewrite - or if its a lost cause, I can shelve it. Once it’s out in the world, your hands are tied. So, I think viewing it that way helps a lot, with not taking the negative to heart so much?
That's a really good way to look at it!
Not everyone is going to love what you write, that’s ok. So long as what I’ve written isn’t causing harm, I can deal with whatever anyone has to say. No one wants to hear their kid is ugly, but thankfully a WIP can be fixed.
A living, breathing child .. not so much LOL.
LOL. Okay I have a fun question for you: would you rather have the power to be invisible, or fly?
Fly. OMG fly. Invisible would’ve been my answer when I was teen - I was painfully shy, and had this down to an artform, anyway. But now, I don’t mind being seen. Flying would save me so much time and money with travel LOL, not to mention how awesome would that be to superman yourself around the globe? The only thing to top that would be to be on the back of a dragon.
Peak Khaleesi answer haha I love it. Fallon, you've talked a lot about identity hear. What advice do you have for aspiring writers, particularly those from underrepresented backgrounds?
I guess this is two-fold. Write the book that scares you. That challenges you. Growth happens when you’re most uncomfortable.
Second - build your circle. I can’t stress that enough. Writing is an isolating craft, but it doesn’t have to be. More importantly, it shouldn’t be. And yes, I’m looking at you, introverts, because I know how terrifying a concept this can be, but you’re going to have to learn how to fake it till you make it. Coming from an introvert who had to learn how to be an extrovert - push your boundaries constantly. Make yourself confront those insecurities over and over again. Join writing groups, go to workshops and conferences. Engage, interact (retreat when needed to decompress) and then do it again. Build your circle. Because when the time comes, you’ll need your circle to survive in this industry.
I 100% agree. Having a circle of support has made all the difference in my journey thus far. Another fun question: If your life was an album, what would you call it, and who’s getting a feature?
Oh lawd lol, I live in my latin music bubble right now. Bachata speaks to my soul so it’ll def be a bachata album for sure, mix of traditional and sensual. For a feature, gotta give love to Prince Royce. As for what to call it … I’m horrible with titles hahaha. They always take me the longest, so I’ll be stumped on this one for a minute.
Bonus Question! You have an all-expenses paid trip where you want with one of your characters--where do you go and who do you bring and why, why, why?
Spain, because it’s been my number one destination since I was a kid. My grandfather playing flamenco records is one of my clearest memories and the reason I dove so deeply in exploring my VERY distant Spanish roots throughout my teens/adulthood.
It was like listening to magic. I was transfixed.
To go to Spain, the motherland of flamenco, would make me so happy. Of all my characters to bring, it would have to be my morally grey, sword-wielding amazon murder baby, Sinadine. Just because I adore her so much and if there is a character I’d love to meet and spend time with, it’s her.
Legit, I wanna be her when I grow up. LOL
Um, first of all I love that name. Second, what an adventure! Eeeee! This was so much fun--thanks again, Fallon!