2021 Debut Author Interview: Dana Swift!

In 2019, we made it our goal is to work with as many debut authors as possible and to spread the word about their debut novels. It was such a success last year that we decided to continue the fun for years to come! Follow us this year as we pick the minds of the 2021 debuts and chat with them about their writing process and what it's like to be a new author. Also stay tuned for news of giveaways, Twitter chats, and more!

At the end of 2020, we Tweeted about wanting to discover more debut authors and their books. We ended up finding Dana Swift and her novel CAST IN FIRELIGHT, and we have been interested in it ever since! We are so excited to have Dana on the blog today to answer some of our questions! 

Dana Swift started making up fantasy worlds when she was eleven years old and hasn’t stopped since. She graduated from the University of Texas at Austin, where she earned degrees in English and Advertising. While in college, Dana competed as a saber fencer and learned a thing or two about fighting, parrying and how it feels to fall in love with your sparring partner. She currently lives with said husband in Miami, Florida.

Keep up with Dana: Website / Twitter / Instagram / Goodreads

The Book Bratz: First of all, congratulations! How does it feel to be a debut author?

Dana: Thank you! And thank you for having me! Truthfully, the first word that comes to mind is surreal. I’ve spent years with this dream and for it to actually and finally come true is just wild. 2020 has been a hard year as a debut and I’m now a 2021 author so the road has been long and very unexpected. I’m still so thankful for the people like yourself who are helping me promote my first book. I’m also so excited for people to read my book and the future possibility of talking to readers face to face. 

The Book Bratz: In your opinion, what's the best part of the writing process? What's the hardest?

Dana: I love the aha, eureka moments where things click, and I get a new idea or a plan for how to connect story elements. Many of those happen in the revision stage after I’ve put all the bad ideas down. However, some happen when I’m drafting and deciding which way to take the story. The hardest part is hitting those walls where motivation to write dwindles and doubt creeps in. Before I got my book deal a lot of doubt stemmed from the big question of ‘Will this ever be good enough for publication’ but now that I’m writing the sequel to Cast in Firelight the questions change and it’s more about ‘Can I make something as good so readers won’t be disappointed.’ I think a lot of writing is overcoming your doubt and finding the love for the writing and story itself. 

The Book Bratz: Where did you get the inspiration for CAST IN FIRELIGHT?

Dana:  Inspiration came from many places. Years ago, I had an idea of book where two betrothed teens compete with each other with the focus on them growing up throughout the story. But I needed more plot and conflict, so the word document sat on my computer with just the concept and a few paragraphs written. Then one day while I was at the gym the idea for the climax came to me. In changing the story to take place in a few weeks instead of years the story really went off from there. The prologue of the book is my two characters at age eight so you can see remnants of my first inspiration in those beginning pages. Many character decisions and plot dynamics were based off childhood movies and rom-coms I loved like Swan Princess, You’ve Got Mail, and animated superhero shows. I believe some of the best ideas are your favorite tropes put together. Cast in Firelight is my take on combining a rom-com romance with a fantasy action plot.

The Book Bratz: Who was your favorite character to write? Who was the most difficult?

Dana: My favorite character to write is my main protagonist, Adraa Belwar because she’s so spunky and the first voice to come to me. I also think her thoughts and fears are the most relatable for me and other readers. For most difficult I actually think Adraa’s parents at times were challenging. I wanted them to be complex (and alive!), but they don’t have as much page time as some other characters, so each moment felt important to convey what I wanted. Plot wise I also had to figure out how Adraa was keeping some of her secrets without them knowing, which is why I think so many stories don’t include or kill off the parents. 

The Book Bratz: How do you keep track of all of the intricate details involved in writing a fantasy novel?

Dana: I use a journal to write down new ideas, edits and some standard information like names, magic system rules and everything. Writing it out helps me to remember and feels a little more intimate. But even my journal is a little out of order so I still have to thumb through it to find what I’m looking for when it should be in my head. The fun of fantasy worlds is how elaborate you can get so I think it’s good to get a journal, word document, or whatever works for you to create some sort of story bible.

The Book Bratz: What do you hope that readers will take away from CAST IN FIRELIGHT?

Dana: I hope people have fun and can use my book as escapism. I also hope some of the themes of self-discovery resonate with readers. Instead of the message of “Be yourself” Cast in Firelight also explores how you many different sides there are to yourself and embracing all of them.

The Book Bratz: Do you plan on returning to the world of CAST IN FIRELIGHT in the future, or do you have any other projects in mind? Can you tell us anything about them?

Dana: Right now, I’m working on the first round of developmental edits for Cast in Firelight’s sequel, so my brain is currently very much in the world of Wickery, coming up with ideas to rewrite chapters and change things for the better. It should come out early 2022 if everything stays course, but as this year has taught me you never know what can happen. I’m just so thankful I was given the opportunity to write the sequel and readers can get more of Adraa, Jatin and the world of Wickery. 

Title: Cast in Firelight (Wickery, #1)
Author: Dana Swift
Publisher: Delacorte Press
Publication Date: January 19th, 2021

Summary: Adraa is the royal heir of Belwar, a talented witch on the cusp of taking her royal ceremony test, and a girl who just wants to prove her worth to her people. Jatin is the royal heir to Naupure, a competitive wizard who's mastered all nine colors of magic, and a boy anxious to return home for the first time since he was a child. Together, their arranged marriage will unite two of Wickery's most powerful kingdoms. But after years of rivalry from afar, Adraa and Jatin only agree on one thing: their reunion will be anything but sweet. Only, destiny has other plans and with the criminal underbelly of Belwar suddenly making a move for control, their paths cross...and neither realizes who the other is, adopting separate secret identities instead. Between dodging deathly spells and keeping their true selves hidden, the pair must learn to put their trust in the other if either is to uncover the real threat. Now Wickery's fate is in the hands of rivals..? FiancĂ©es..? Partners..? Whatever they are, it's complicated and bound for greatness or destruction.

Thank you so much to Dana for stopping by and answering our questions! We are super excited about CAST IN FIRELIGHT and can't wait for it to be out in the world on January 19th

Celebrate So Excited GIF by Hey Violet

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