I’m so excited to host an interview with Dianna Gunn, the debut author of the YA fantasy novella Keeper of the Dawn. Join us to hear about world building, writing an asexual protagonist, and the process of writing Keeper of the Dawn.
Can you tell us about your novella, Keeper of the Dawn?
There are so many things I can tell you, but there’s really no better way to describe it than with the rather impressive blurb the Book Smugglers (my lovely publisher) came up with:
Sometimes failure is just the beginning
All Lai has ever wanted is to become a priestess, like her mother and grandmother before her, in service to their beloved goddess. That’s before the unthinkable happens, and Lai fails the trials she has trained for her entire life. She makes the only choice she believes she can: she runs away.
From her isolated desert homeland, Lai rides north to the colder, stranger kingdom of Alanum—a land where magic, and female warriors, are not commonplace.
Here, she hears tales about a mountain city of women guardians and steel forgers, worshiping goddesses who sound very similar to Lai’s own. Determined to learn more about these women, these Keepers of the Dawn, Lai travels onward to find their temple. She is determined to make up for her past failure, and will do whatever it takes to join their sacred order.
Falling in love with another initiate was not part of the plan.
Keeper of the Dawn is a tale of new beginnings, second chances, and the endurance of hope.
I was so happy that Lai was asexual! Why did you choose to write a story with an asexual protagonist?
To be honest, I didn’t really decide to write a story about an asexual character. When I started writing Keeper of the Dawn, I had no idea what asexual was – but I did know Lai had no interest in marriage or conventional romance. If anything, for a long time I thought she was aromantic – although again, I had no idea there was a word for that.
Then she went and fell in love, and I was faced with a decision: do I include a sex scene? As a rather young adult myself (I’m 23 as of writing this), I’ve long been fed up with the ways sex is treated in YA. I’m tired of the endless train of virgins who, in every other area of their life, are badass and self-aware, but who still fear losing that virginity. And I’m also tired of sexually active protagonists in YA who only have sex as part of their downward spiral of Terrible Life Decisions.
So I thought about it for a long time, but in the end I knew a sex scene didn’t fit with Lai’s character. She has no real interest, and if she ever did indulge her partner, it would really be just that – an indulgence for someone she loves. And to be honest, I still think Lai is mostly aromantic. She’s only ever been interested in one person, and I don’t see that changing.
I heard that Keeper of the Dawn started out as a short story. What would you say is the greatest change the story went through?
Oh boy, THAT is a tough question. When a story grows roughly 34,000 words, there’s a lot of change. After many minutes of staring at this question, however, I think there’s only one answer I can use: the romance. I never expected it, and it was one of the last major changes I made. Keeper of the Dawn was originally submitted to Musa Publishing, a company I used to work for, and even then it didn’t have the romance.
Amusingly enough, that’s now also the bit everyone is talking about. Sometimes the surprises are the best parts.
What was your favorite thing about writing Keeper of the Dawn?
Another big question! I think my favorite part was describing all the temples. I was raised Pagan, and I’ve always had an obsession with old Pagan temples. Hell, even old Christian churches are beautiful. I tried to put as much love into creating my temples as worshipers of old put into building them. If you read more of my books (when they come out of course), you’ll quickly notice this is a common thread. Mythology is My Thing.
I loved the world building and mythology you put into the novella. Do you have any particular inspirations for the world of Keeper of the Dawn?
One of my biggest inspirations was actually a counter inspiration. I’m a huge fan of Tamora Pierce’s In the Hand of the Goddess series and specifically of Alanna, the main character. I wanted to create a world where a woman like Alanna wouldn’t have to dress like a man to become a warrior.
I was also reading Game of Thrones when I wrote the original draft of Keeper of the Dawn, and the Dothraki definitely had a major influence on Lai’s homeland/original culture.
Would you ever return to this world or characters?
Yes and no. I’ve done a significant amount of brainstorming, and I simply don’t think there’s another interesting story about Lai, or any of the other major characters in Keeper of the Dawn. That said, I’m definitely interested in writing more about this world. In particular, I would like to write a story more thoroughly exploring the culture of Alanum, the kingdom Lai originally flees to when leaving home.
Do you have any current writing projects?
Haha, DO I? I’ve got so many writing projects going on that if I told you about all of them this answer would be longer than the entire rest of the interview! So I’ll just briefly mention my Big Insane Fantasy Series, which has overtaken literally everything else I was working on. The Big Insane Fantasy Series, which will likely be titled Tales of Markinash (Markinash is the continent they’re set in), includes four planned novels, two novellas and three planned anthologies.
The first novella in my Big Insane Fantasy Series, tentatively titled Fall of the Falhoran, is in semi-final stages of the third edit. I’m planning to self publish it in either October or November. I’m also working on a serial fiction project in the same world, and I hope to start releasing that via Patreon in either November or February (because nobody likes paying for more things right before/after the holidays).
About the Author
Dianna Gunn is a freelance writer by day and a fantasy author by night. She blogs about writing, creativity and books at http://www.thedabbler.ca. You can also follow her on Twitter @DiannaLGunn or on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/dlgunnauthor/.