Welcome to WOLF NOTES, where interview questions stray from the rest of the pack. It’s nice to know the usual stuff like where an author gets their inspiration and why they write, but sometimes we need a little fun in our lives.
This week I welcome DIANNE K. SALERNI. Dianne is the author of the Eighth Day MG fantasy series, described by Kirkus as “an exciting blend of Arthurian legend and organized crime.” The first book in the series, The Eighth Day, has been on state lists in Maine, Florida, Georgia, Virginia, Minnesota, and Indiana. Dianne has also published two YA historical novels. The Caged Graves is a Junior Library Guild Selection and has been nominated for reader’s choice awards in Vermont, South Carolina, and Pennsylvania. We Hear the Dead was the inspiration for a short film, The Spirit Game, which premiered at the 2013 Cannes Film Festival.
Wolf: Authors tend to be very hard on the people in their stories. What is the meanest thing you’ve ever done to your characters?
Dianne: I’d have to pick what I did to my main character Jax in The Inquisitor’s Mark, the second book in the Eighth Day series. I had him going up against an enemy with the power to manipulate other people’s memories. I recall sending an outline of my plot to my critique partner and her remarking that this seemed too powerful an enemy for Jax. “How will you prevent them from using their power on him?”
Then it occurred to me, “I won’t.” I immediately started revising my plan for the story so that Jax is overpowered and his memory is manipulated. They make him believe that he hates his two best friends – and he promptly betrays them and delivers them to their mortal enemies. I called this version of my main character “Bad Jax,” and it ended up being the best part of the whole story.
But it was a pretty mean thing to do to Jax, who had to live with what he’d done.
Wolf: That is mean. Jax’s enemy could manipulate memories. If you could have a super power, what would it be?
Dianne: I’d choose the ability to command people to do what I say. Like Kilgrave in Jessica Jones and Riley Pendragon in The Eighth Day. But don’t worry. I’d only use my power to make my daughters complete their chores in a timely manner.
Wolf: Good to hear. Do you consider yourself a cat person, or a dog person?
Dianne: A cat person, for the most part. I’ve always had cats, and for a big part of my life, I was kind of afraid of dogs. Then we got Sorcia, our big lovable German Shepherd. She changed my view of dogs – and I’m not afraid of them anymore.
Wolf: Glad you got over your fear. I can’t imagine life without a dog. Which of your characters is your favorite?
Dianne: My favorite character is Riley, Jax’s guardian in The Eighth Day. At the beginning of the book, Jax hates Riley, believing him to be a no-good slacker. But when Jax learns about Riley’s past, finds out who he is and how far he’ll go to keep the people under his protection safe, everything changes. Developing their brotherly relationship was one of my favorite parts of writing the series.
Furthermore, Riley invented himself. When I started the first draft of The Eighth Day, I had different plans for this character. But he took control of himself from page one. This is who I am, he told me. Oh, and I need tattoos and a motorcycle, thanks. I know most people think that authors control their characters. Well, sometimes characters control themselves, and a wise author listens to them.
Wolf: So true. Let’s play a game. While walking in the woods you come across…
Dianne: Something spooky. Maybe it’s an old, forgotten cemetery, or an abandoned house that’s slowly falling apart. Definitely something that would look perfect on the cover of a mystery book!
Wolf: There is a door at the end of a dark, damp corridor. You hear rumbling. What do you do?
Dianne: It depends on the lighting. Is the corridor brightly lit? Then I might walk down the corridor to the door and listen more carefully before peeking inside. However, if the corridor is lighted by one bare bulb or a flickering fluorescent light – no way. I walk the other way fast.
Wolf: What story are you working on now?
Dianne: I’m working on two things simultaneously. One is a rewrite of a manuscript I finished earlier this year, which I describe as Dark Shadows for the MG crowd. It was originally written in third person, past tense, and I’m rewriting it in first person, present tense. But, earlier this week, I also started a first draft of a Shiny New Idea. I’m utterly pantstering this one, so I only have a vague idea of where it’s going. But there are carnivorous fairies in it.
Wolf: Carnivorous fairies, oh my. I’m almost afraid to ask. What do you like to do when you’re not writing?
Dianne: I love to read, of course. Mostly MG, YA, and adult thrillers. I like a good Netflix binge. My most recent was re-watching Crazy Ex-Girlfriend as a refresher before Season 3 starts. I like to ski, and travel, and cook with my husband.
Wolf: Thanks for stopping by. To connect with Dianne, check out these links.