Author Spotlight Interview: Deryn Pittar
Today’s interview is with award winning romance author Deryn Pittar. Deryn writes across multiple genres, and today she shares her journey to publication and the challenges she has overcome. It was a pleasure getting to know more about Deryn’s writing style, and life outside of writing!
HG: How would you describe yourself to somebody who isn’t familiar with your writing yet?
DP: I write over a range of genre; sci.fi/paranormal/fantasy, contemporary fiction, romance, a cozy mystery and a dash of horror. I also dabble in poetry and particularly like the challenge of haiku which requires few words to convey a moment in time.
HG: Wow! How fantastic. Tell us a bit about your publishing journey. When did you know you were ready to take on the “author” role?
DP: About twenty years ago I decided to get serious about my desire to write. Research told me that romance was the biggest market so I aimed for that. I wrote a couple of romances but discovered I didn’t have the ability to stick with one couple and their journey. I kept introducing sub-plots and other characters. I also had to learn the difference between a romance and a love story.
e.g. A romance is when two people meet, are attracted, become separated and finally find their way together. i.e. ‘boy meets girl, boy loses girl, boy gets girl back again’ – and all the angst and emotion that goes with that journey.
A love story is when two people fall in love and together fight/overpower or combat a common foe. There’s a big difference between those two plot lines.
I wrote a series of five paranormal/urban fantasy romances about one family and these were published by Secret Cravings. They eventually closed and I self-published the series. In between times I branched out into other genre, learned the craft by taking courses and exchanging work with other authors. Each year my work improved and I had novels and short stories published in anthologies and other novels accepted by publishers, who one-by-one closed and I had my rights returned. Again, I self-published.
In 2018 I won a short story contest run by IFWG Australia. It had to include a steam engine and a station. I set it in a dystopian future in New Zealand. I was asked by Gerry Huntman of IFWG to give him first refusal when I wrote a novel about the character. The winning short story became the first chapter and he released my book The Carbonite’s Daughter in 2022.
In the past five years I have had success with a dragon fantasy, winning the Sir Julius Vogel Award for Lutapolii – White Dragon of the South in 2018 and this year my latest novel The Carbonite’s Daughter is a finalist in the Sir Julius Vogel Awards for best Youth Novel in 2022. Her sequel, Quake City will be released August 2024.
In recent years I have discovered a love for the short form and I enjoy the challenge of writing, drabbles, (100 words) flash fiction, and short stories. Sometimes they reach novella length, but not often. I’m well published in short stories and have won the occasional contest.
HG: What a journey! So, you write in multiple genres. Does your writing process differ for each? How do you switch gears?
DP: No, my writing process doesn’t change, except I can take my time and leisurely approach a turning point in a story if it’s as novella, or wander along to several action high points with a novel. The skill of writing in the shorter form is in taking out every word that you don’t really need. Sometimes a painful process. In my opinion a genre is only defined by the words used, (i.e. horror prose versus romantic prose), the process is the same.
I suppose ‘to change gears’ I need to think about the plot before I start or have a vague idea of a punch line, then I can start writing, but the only true difference is the words I would use to build the tension and the body language of the characters.
HG: Tell us a little bit about your actual writing process. Do you have a routine for where and when you write? Any interesting quirks?
DP: As the family has left home and I write at the dining table, I don’t have a timetable or strict work schedules. The bustle of life doesn’t distract me. When I’m writing my ears are inclined to close and I become engrossed in the world in my head. The scenes unroll and I type frantically to keep up with the dialogue and movements of the characters. I have to make them pause at times while I fatten out a description or put in some body movements – otherwise I end up with a page of ‘talking heads. If I have a story in my head the urge to get it out is strong. The characters keep intruding in my daily life, wanting to be recorded; or my brain keeps rewriting a scene, trying different versions. Then again, at times I have to drag them, kicking and screaming, out of my imagination to make them perform. It’s all part of the challenge.
HG: What have been the challenges you’ve faced in your publishing career?
DP: The biggest challenge, in the beginning, was learning the craft; the finer points of grammar, head-hopping and how not to do it, self-editing, how to show not tell. Things like that. Errors, that I can now see in my own work which were invisible to me once. These skills are what make the difference between being published and remaining unpublished. They are the fine details that polish your work to a winning level.
Also, critiquing other people’s work taught me to look at my own work with a more critical eye. Getting ‘heard’, finding a market for my stories, and meeting other authors, all these were challenges to begin with.
I joined New Zealand Romance Writers, and as a member of the local Coast-2-Coast branch I’ve made great friends, learned heaps and gained critique partners. The members write over a wide range of genre, not solely romance. I also belong to Tauranga Writers, and a smaller local group who meet every two weeks. Finding people prepared to give honest and caring critiques of your work is one of the hardest things for a new author.
I would recommend Globe Soup, an on-line Facebook group I have belonged to for three years, as a great place to begin. They hold lots of free-to-enter challenges as well as some paying contests. There is a feedback exchange page organized for these events and I exchange work with a few people as a result of participating. Writers will always support other writers – all you need to do is reach out.
HG: Thank you for sharing. Now, tell us a bit about your books. What can readers expect? What feeling do you hope readers are left with when they finish one of your novels?
DP: I like to leave my readers satisfied, happy with the story’s resolution and if I’m lucky leave them thinking about the characters long afterwards. I’ve had good feedback on my novels and frequent queries as to when a follow-on is due, but as with my dragon story there is only so many things a dragon can do so it remains a stand-alone, despite being an award-winning novel.
My paranormal series came to a natural conclusion and my current novel, The Carbonite’s Daughter has its sequel only because there is enthusiasm for the rest of her story. I’m hoping the desire remains strong until Quake City is published because the lead-in time with publishing is quite long (editing, covers, catalogue listings.) Not like self-publishing, which is fairly immediate once you do the essentials. I prefer to write rather than to publish and market.
HG: Awesome! What can you tell us about any other projects you have in the works?
DP: I have a newsletter in which I post, about once a month, a short piece of fiction. This gets my work out there and it delights me to know people are reading my creations.
Recently, I, along with two friends, submitted a compilation to a publishing company’s call for hybrid works. We edited and critiqued our work, picked the best pieces and submitted poetry, flash fiction and short fiction. Even if it doesn’t get picked for publication, we have it ready to self-publish. I have taken workshops on short story writing and will take another this coming September. I continue to read and critique the efforts of other writers.
I recently self-published a story called Jasper’s Bloodlines intended to be a reader magnet. I’m not sure if these things work, but I had a lot of fun writing it. I’m inclined to write humor without meaning to. I once wrote a horror that reduced all my critique partners to gales of laughter. I’ve learned I am not a writer of serious tombs.
HG: That all sounds great. Thank you for sharing. Switching gears, what do you enjoy doing when not writing?
DP: Having reared a family of sons I enjoy baking, gardening and of course reading! My sight prevents me from driving and I’ve given up handcrafts.
HG: Please tell us, what was your last 5-star read?
DP: I’ve read several great books in the past year but John Boyne’s The Heart’s Invisible Furies was one of the best books I’ve ever read. A lovely Irish flavor. I recommend it.
HG: For fun, before we wrap up, let’s do a fast five! First one…cookies or cake?
HG: Movie or book?
HG: Pool or ocean?
HG: Introvert or extrovert?
DP: I love my own company but I know people say I’m an extrovert.
HG: eBook, print book or audiobook?
DP: Audiobooks are too slow for me, so either e-book or print book.
HG: For readers that want to find out more about your stories and keep up with you, where should they go to connect or learn more?
If you love to read and leave reviews on Amazon, and would like to get books from authors like Deryn Pittar for free every day, then sign up for the Hidden Gems ARC program. Each day we send out emails with offers of free books in over 15 different genres, and you’ll only be sent the genres you’re interested in and the books you want to read. Sign up for as many or as few as you have time and interest for, we’ll keep the eBooks flowing as long as you want to keep on reading and reviewing!