Author Sandra Cox brought Dana to my attention and I am so glad that she did because her books are very intriguing and I was excited to have her here!
I recently got new glasses (progressive bifocals - eek!) and I have been getting used to them ever since I got them.
Why am I telling you this?
Because, the adjustment period is sort of messing with my reading because I'm still trying to figure out which parts of the lenses I'm looking through the most.
Why does that matter?
Because I wanted to have Dana's book read by today. Unfortunately, that's not happening! (While I did get this posted today, my eyes need rest, so I will finish the formatting later, after some sleep. Am I too honest? Is that really more than you wanted to know?) My eyes are rested now (11:33pm Tuesday night) and I am now going to properly format this feature! Thanks for being such a trooper Dana!
ME: March has a few popular dates to celebrate. Which one are you more apt to celebrate, St. Patrick’s Day, or the First Day of Spring, or both and why?
DANA: I celebrate both, since they’re connected to my family lineage. I come from Irish, Scottish and British stock and my husband has a line that goes back to Celtic times in Wales. As a young child, I remember hunting leprechauns at my great-grandmother’s house one spring. She told me she saw one in the bushes in her yard, and I spent hours crawling around her hedges in an attempt to lure him out. Now, I hunt ghosts with a paranormal investigative team.
ME: Because of its Irish heritage, St. Patrick’s Day is a big party day in Wisconsin (and many other areas) in which everyone gets in on the action from free pub crawl busses to breweries making green beer/spirits and some stores selling green colored/decorated food and sweets. Does anything similar occur in your area? Even if you do not participate, please tell us what activities are going on around you. Anything you feel is unique or especially interesting?
DANA: It’s a pretty big deal here too, since there’s a large population of Irish-American descendants living in the Valley of the Sun (Phoenix, AZ). Our local Irish Cultural Center has a festival and parade every year for St. Paddy’s Day. Hubby and I have attended them in the past and they’re a lot of fun. Many other festivals go on around the valley too.
We also have several Irish pubs that offer Irish song and dance entertainment on St. Paddy’s Day and throughout the year. And you can find green sweets in grocery stores and bakeries. I just love a chocolate cupcake with green butter cream frosting. Yummy!
ME: Do you like to decorate for spring/St. Pat’s Day or is this the time of the year where your house has a break from special décor?
DANA: Well, we don’t decorate too much, but the past couple of years I’ve been looking for some shamrock LED lights to hang on our saguaro cactus in the front yard. I finally found some in a local store. And I sometimes buy cut spring flowers to put out on our table. We recently had fresh cut tulips in the house. That’s about it for decorations.
ME: Ireland is steeped in myth, legends and lore. Do you have any favorites? Please briefly share them with us (include links to other information for interested readers).
DANA: Oh, yes. One of my favorites is the legend of Boudica, the warrior queen who led her army and fought the Romans when they invaded Briton and slaughtered many Celtic Natives. The Romans actually wrote about her battles. Otherwise, we might not have even known she existed, since the Celts didn’t have a written language. Boudicca at unrv.com
Also, I love the faery lore and tales that come from Ireland. Who couldn’t resist a half-human, half-faery helper like the grogoch? I sure could use one of him around my place. Grogoch at Irelandseye.com
ME: Spring is considered a time of renewal, a time of rebirth. Do you do anything “special” to commemorate this idea such as planting flowers or cleaning out your house? Please share with us your way of celebrating this time of rebirth.
DANA: We don’t have seasons like those who live in cold-weather places, but we do plant heat-hardy shrubs and flowers and prune others in March and April to prepare for our long, hot summers. Arizonans love the outdoors, so hubby and I take nature hikes and do what we can to help the environment. Cleaning out closets to donate stuff we no longer use is sometimes part of my springtime ritual.
ME: Magic is often tied into Celtic myths and legends, or at least we like to think it is. Why do you think that is? Why, in your opinion, does Ireland carry so much mystery and magic for the rest of us?
DANA: If you look at many Native cultures around the world, magic is an integral part of their legends. A way to explain things they didn’t understand or had no control over. Irish Celts were no different. The creation of the world, diseases, births, deaths, natural disasters, celestial bodies, and other mysteries were woven into magical tales to make them understandable to humans.
At various times throughout history, invaders tried to annihilate Celtic cultures. Ireland had its share of invaders. It must have been terrifying to think that your people’s entire history could be wiped out and lost forever. I think that’s why today’s decedents continue to foster those original beliefs. At least in part.
ME: If you could be any mythical or legendary Celtic creature or character, what/who would it be and why?
DANA: Actually, I would have loved to see Boudica kicking the Romans’ butts! And I think it would be fun to be a Moruadh (an Irish sea faery) for a while and explore the oceans up close and personal. merrows at Irelandseye.com
ME: Please tell us some of the favorite/best books you’ve read with Celtic myths/legends or ties in them. (They can be fact or fiction, just be sure to indicate what type of books they are in case our readers might want to check them out.)
DANA: For fiction reading I loved the Boudica series by Manda Scott and the Cloudmages series by A. L. Farrell. A non-fiction book that I use for my own research is Women in Celtic Myth by Moyra Caldecott. And a really fun, illustrated book that includes Celtic faeries is The Great Encyclopedia of Faeries: Secrets Revealed by Pierre Dubois - illustrated by Claudine and Roland Sabatier.
ME: Oooh, some great reading there! However, it's time to switch gears and now and focus on your writing. What genre is your writing considered to be? Why this genre? What was the draw for you?
DANA: Speculative fiction is my genre. That’s a term that covers science fiction, fantasy, paranormal, post-apocalyptic, horror, and other similar genres. I grew up hearing stories about my great-great-aunt who worked as a medium back in the early 1900s, along with other paranormal family legends. And my grandfather worked for NASA, so science was part of my childhood as well. I was drawn to sci-fi and fantasy TV shows and movies even as a small child. And I fell in love with books in these genres in elementary school when I read The Hobbit by J. R. R. Tolkien and The Forgotten Door by Alexander Key.
ME: If you could describe your writing with a word or phrase, what would it be? Please be creative and delve into the core of your writing to tell us what word or phrase you want readers to take with them when they've finished reading your story.
DANA: Escapism! I write fiction to entertain because I read fiction to be entertained. I want readers to forget their problems for a while and just enjoy the ride.
ME: Do you prefer magical or human ingenuity for problem solutions? Does that show through in your writing? If so, how?
DANA: I wanted to be Tabitha from Bewitched when I was little. Does that count? As for my books, it depends on what I’m writing at the time. When I have magic in a book, the characters use a mix of magic and human ingenuity in various levels, depending on the situation. Those who use magic without thinking to much usually end up in a heap of trouble. But then, that can be lots of fun too.
ME: Who decides what you write about, you or your muse? What kind of influence do you have over your story, or is the muse always the one strumming the harp?
DANA: Haha, good one! I have several muses actually. Characters stomp around in my head, giving me direction on where they would like the story to go. If anyone ever got inside my head, they’d probably come out screaming. Sometimes I have an internal struggle with a character when I want something different to happen, but I listen to my subconscious, because it’s usually right. So, I’d have to say my muses lead me where they want me to go.
ME: What was the character or creature that you had the most fun creating and why?
DANA: I have a great time with all my characters. They’re like family to me. But if I had to pick just one from my young adult books, I would have to go with Master Prag in Breach of Worlds. He’s a blustery old man with endearing qualities, who enjoys teasing the main character Nara. The Master bullied his way into my thoughts one day, and I had great fun watching him take shape as I was writing.
ME: If you had the opportunity to meet just one of your character/creature creations in real life, who would it be and why?
DANA: Ooh, this is a tough one because I’m not sure I would want to meet any of them. I do an awful lot of nasty things to my characters during the course of a book, and they’d probably be very upset with me. But if I were to meet a character, I would choose Janai from my teen sci-fi Quest for Freedom. She tends to have compassion for those who “done her wrong” and I might actually survive an encounter with her.
ME: Which of your character/creature creations would you never want to meet under any circumstance and why?
DANA: Haha, see previous answer. There are so many. Okay, I’m going to go with the Morgee from Quest for Freedom here. These aliens have no compassion for anybody, are relentless in their pursuit of slave labor, and can’t be reasoned with. I wouldn’t last very long in their hands.
ME: Of all the stories you wrote, which was the storyline that you had the most fun fleshing out? Why?
DANA: I have fun with them all. Otherwise, I would never write them. I have to say The Mask of Tamirella has a special place in my heart, though. This post-apocalyptic teen novel wasn’t the first book I had ever written, but it was the first one published. The main character, Caitlanna Mullen, came to me during a writing exercise and just wouldn’t let go. She hounded me for days before I finally gave in and wrote her story.
Writing that book was an adventure for me, as well, and I had great fun discovering Cait’s world with her, danger and all. And the book has won three awards since publication.
ME: As writers, inspiration comes from everywhere. What, specifically, inspired your books, the ones we’re promoting here today?
DANA: Yes, I do get inspiration from everywhere. There is always that active little part in the back of my mind that latches onto things and causes me to think, Hey, I better write that down. It might make a good story.
Quest for Freedom got its start from a disturbing dream I had years ago and couldn’t get out of my head. As I stated previously, The Mask of Tamirella got its spark from a writing exercise. And I got the idea for Breach of Worlds from a painting I came across one day. The girl in that painting haunted my thoughts and I had to write her story.
BLURB: Quest for Freedom
Kidnapped. Enslaved. Trapped on an unforgiving world far from home.
Fifteen-year-old Janai, a healer's apprentice from a planet called Kritine, volunteers to lead others to freedom. Along the journey, she finds she’s attracted to a boy from her homeworld, but now is not the time to choose a life-mate. She must remain strong as she fights to overcome old and new enemies that don’t want her to find freedom.
Will she succeed? Or is the free-zone merely a fanciful story spread by desperate children? Janai risks her life to find out.
Breach of Worlds
How can a destitute orphan get an ordinary life? Seek out the valley sorceress, of course, a woman rumored to ride dragons and eat young men.
Armed with only her wits and a stolen map, Nara goes in search of the famed sorceress. At age fourteen, when her own powers begin to manifest, she becomes a target for evil. This adolescent girl must help defeat the shadow ones before they destroy everything she has come to love. Orphanage life was difficult, but her future terrifies her as she embarks on a harrowing journey fraught with magic and peril.
Nara's life will be anything but ordinary.
The Mask of Tamirella
Sixteen-year-old Caitlanna Mullen lives in a harsh world where technology no longer exists. In her post-apocalyptic society, she salvages priceless artifacts for trade. One artifact is especially desired. The Mask of Tamirella. Cait steals the Mask from another sanction, putting her own at risk. As punishment, the Elders send her to a hazardous dig. She must travel through a mutant forest without becoming a sacrifice and into Rotted City, where toxic ruins hoard an ancient disease. To complicate matters, the man she loves accompanies her group. Because of their age differences, an intimate relationship with him is strictly forbidden and would bring severe punishment, perhaps even exile. Cait’s life takes an unexpected turn when she uncovers secrets she never imagined.
Will this sixteen-year-old survive in a place where death and injury are daily concerns? Can she quell her feelings for a man forbidden to touch her until she’s older? Or will her confrontations with mutants and toxic ruins cause her demise? One thing is certain - the secrets Caitlanna uncovers will change her world forever.
It would take several days to reach the valley where the sorceress lived, less if she could catch a ride on some wagon or other. Many people were afraid of the valley woman, afraid to venture there. Not Nara. She’d had her share of beatings. She was anxious to meet this mysterious woman who struck fear in the biggest of men, and wondered what it was like to have such power.
Suddenly, the hairs on her neck stood on end. Someone watched her. She tugged her hat down and peered around. At first, she didn’t see anyone. Finally, she noticed a girl standing near a dress shop across the street. The girl wore a long, blue dress with a high bodice. Jewels sparkled around her neck and lace decorated her cuffs and collar. Her dark hair hung in deliberate curls around her shoulders, creating quite a contrast to her pale skin. She smiled in Nara’s direction.
Nara slipped into the adjacent alley and flattened herself against the wall. She swallowed hard and cursed. This girl would surely tell someone about her. High ladies were like that, always putting their noses in a stranger’s business.