Interview with Danielle Ackley-McPhail, author of the Eternal Cycle series

Author Bio: Award-winning author Danielle Ackley-McPhail has worked both sides of the publishing industry for over eighteen years. Currently, she is a project editor and promotions manager for Dark Quest Books.

Her published works include four urban fantasy novels, Yesterday's Dreams, Tomorrow's Memories, Today’s Promise, The Halfling’s Court: and The Redcaps’ Queen: A Bad-Ass Faerie Tale. She is also the author of the non-fiction writers guide, The Literary Handyman and is the senior editor of the Bad-Ass Faeries anthology series, Dragon’s Lure, and In An Iron Cage. Her work is included in numerous other anthologies and collections.

She is a member of the New Jersey Authors Network and Broad Universe, a writer’s organization focusing on promoting the works of women authors in the speculative genres.

Danielle lives in New Jersey with husband and fellow writer, Mike McPhail, mother-in-law Teresa, and three extremely spoiled cats. She can be found on LiveJournal, Facebook, and Twitter. 

Interview: Q. How did you come up with the idea for the Eternal Cycle series?

I used to work with a number of great authors on a writer’s site hosted on AOL. When we weren’t “working” we would head to a chatroom and just talk. My supervisor was one of those in this group and he had plenty of stories of various odd jobs he’d held over the years, including pawnbroker. Now his chosen writing style is very dark so knowing his writing personality and hearing about the pawnbroker position, my mind just went running with the concept of what would happen if you pawned something that was actually linked to your soul? How would the ruthless take advantage of that? That kernel morphed into a benevolent pawnbroker seeking to safeguard such things. At first that was all it was. A character portrait about a girl giving up more than the cherished heirloom she thought she was pawning. It was popular enough when I posted excerpts that I just kept going. That led to research into Irish mythology, which expanded the story even more as I encountered random bits of legend that dovetailed perfectly into the story.

Q. Is there a message in this series that you want readers to grasp?

Well, the big one that has transcended the book is a quote from Yesterday’s Dreams that has gone a bit viral on the internet: “Because dreams are the difference between living…and existing…” When we give up on dreams we kill a piece of our souls.

Q. If you had to do it all over again, would you change anything in your books?

Oh…that’s funny, actually. Book one, Yesterday’s Dreams, has been re-written three times post-publication, and Tomorrow’s Memories has been re-written once. Each time the books have moved to a new publisher they have been cleaned up. I never change the content of the story, but I certainly take any opportunity offered to me to improve things, because no matter how good you are, mistakes, typos and awkward phrasing get missed. And besides that, I am continually evolving as a writer and learning new things, improving my craft.

Q. What was the hardest part of writing this series?

Here is a lesson for the aspiring novelist. Never, NEVER take over ten years to finish a three-book series, if you can help it. Yesterday’s Dreams was written starting in 1997. It was first published in 2001. Tomorrow’s Memories was written in 2002 and didn’t come out until 2009. Today’s Promise was written in 2012 and came out in 2012. You can see the kind of gaps I am talking about here. Not only was it difficult to keep track of details, but my skill level and writing style transformed over the intervening years. I actually tried writing the third book for years and just couldn’t get in the right mind-set. I had an opportunity to bring the series to it’s current publisher and was given a very tight deadline. Apparently that was enough to shake the characters back down out of the rafters and into the spotlight. Yesterday’s Dreams took three years to write (the first time); Tomorrow’s Memories took a year and a half in calendar time, but six months in actual writing time; Today’s Promise was done in three months (not counting the years I struggled with it ;) I regret procrastinating because it made it hard for the fans to follow the series, but in a way I am also glad because eight years ago I couldn’t have written the book that became Today’s Promise, and that would have been a real shame as it is one of the best things I’ve ever written, but man, was it a hard struggle reaching the end, even if it was worth it!

Q. Did you learn anything from writing your books and what was it?

I learned that I am not perfect. There is a reason there are editors in the world. I learned that not everyone will appreciate my vision. That does not mean they are wrong or that I am a bad writer, it simply means my work does not meet their tastes. I have learned to take the value from comments both positive and negative and learn from them in an effort to become a better writer. Oh…and I learned a LOT about Irish mythology :-)

Q. Did you have a musical playlist you listen to when writing? If so, what kind of music?

You know…after a while all Irish instrumentals start to sound like the same song? Or maybe its that they start to feel like one long, never-ending song, particularly when you have the player set to loop :-) I like the folksy type music. Irish or zydeco, usually instrumentals only when I’m writing, or in another language so that the words don’t distract me. Primarily my writing play list is Irish folk, though I do have a separate movie-soundtrack loop for when I’m writing science fiction.

Q. Do you recall how your interest in writing originated?

My interest in writing stemmed from a voracious reading appetite. When I was younger I would read everything and anything…it was not unusual to find me reading the back of the shampoo bottle when in the tub. I always excelled in English, particularly the writing assignments, but I was about twelve or thirteen before I really started to write just because I wanted to write. It started with me lying in bed at night writing continuations in my head of whatever book I was reading or had just read. I, of course, always ended up as the lead character in the ongoing saga. After that is when the English teachers started getting serious about creative writing assignments and from that point on it was a foregone conclusion that writing would be a part of my life.

Q. Who is your favorite author and what is it that really strikes you about their work?

This is tough. There are so many, and each for different reasons. Anne McCaffrey, Mercedes Lackey, Patricia Briggs, PC Hodgell, Jim Butcher, and L. Jagi Lamplighter. There are several things all of them have in common: character-driven stories; rich, detailed settings, and fantastic or mythic elements. I love magic and wonder and personal struggles. I want to see characters grow. I want visceral backgrounds and events. Make me feel, make me care.

Q. Tell us your latest news.

Well, my biggest news is a new release: The Redcaps’ Queen: A Bad-Ass Faerie Tale released in May from Dark Quest Books. This is the sequel to my biker faerie novel, The Halfling’s Court. Again, another crash schedule, but also another fantastic book.  This one is Biker Faeries Meets Roller Derby, and what a ride!

Q. Do you have anything specific that you want to say to your readers?

Thank you. Thank you for reading. Thank you for your interest in my work and the stories I have to tell. Thank you for giving me a reason to play with such wondrous ideas that pop into my head. You allow me to share the magic of my imagination with you and every time you enjoy some tale I’ve spun my heart bubbles with joy.


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