Please welcome author Mattie Dunman to Andi's Young Adult Books today. She was kind enough to spend some time talking about her latest book 'Instinct,' which is one that I really enjoyed. (Read my review here.) We also get a sneak peek into her life. Be sure to leave her comments and questions below!
What was the inspiration behind 'Instinct'?
I misread a billboard while driving home from work. It was an advertisement for a local law firm, and at first glance I could have sworn it read: “Worst Lawyers in the State!” It didn’t of course, but that faulty first impression got me thinking about instinct and first impressions in general, and why we trust them so much. The story developed from there.How much do you have in common with Derry, the main character?
I don’t think it’s possible for me to write a character that doesn’t have a little bit of me in them; it might make me a bit of a megalomaniac, but that’s why we become writers, isn’t it? For Derry, there are a few basic tenets to live by, and I think we share those: loyalty, friendship, and a sense of justice. But beyond that, Derry is much more optimistic and determined than I, and perhaps a bit more naïve. She’s definitely someone I would have wanted to be friends with back in high school, though.Which scene was your favorite to write? The most difficult to write?
I loved writing Derry’s first day at school. I just kept thinking of all the strange things she would be hearing, how much of a fish out of water she would be, so that was fun to play with. The hardest scene I can’t really describe without giving away a huge spoiler, but I will say that I cried the entire time I wrote Derry’s late-night flight through the snow. I hated to do it, but it was absolutely necessary to the story and for Derry’s character to endure.This book deals with bullying, suicide, abuse, and so much more. What message do you hope readers will pull from it?
I’m a teacher, and I have seen and heard so many heartbreaking stories about students who were bullied, particularly online, which really struck a chord with me. I can’t imagine how hard it is for teenagers to get through all the normal drama of adolescence with the added issues of social media and how invasive that kind of harassment can be. Some of the other issues Derry and her friends face are perhaps less popular to discuss, but just as pervasive. There are many relationships that start in high school which would be termed domestic abuse a little later in life, and with the popularity of “alpha” male heroes whose possessiveness and stalker tendencies are not really all that healthy, I just wanted to spotlight a growing problem. I hope that readers will follow Derry’s example and look beneath the surface for the truth.Will there be a sequel to this book or a spin-off with any of the characters?
There is a sequel planned with Derry and Cole and Jake...and possibly Phillip. I haven’t planned for a third book yet, but depending on where the story leads, we’ll see.On what projects are you currently working?
I am currently working on the sequel to my other YA book, At First Touch, and hope to get it published sometime this fall. The sequel to Instinct is outlined and I’ve got the first 7,000 words, so I’m hoping to follow up in early spring.Please tell us about your other published work.
I’m also working on several other projects, one of which is a New Adult paranormal.
I think the heroine from my other book, Liz from At First Touch, would get along pretty well with Derry. Liz has the extraordinary ability to download the mind of anyone she touches, including all their memories, knowledge, and thoughts, present or past. She is the target of both the government and a shadowy organization known as the Coalition who want to control her talents and take away her freedom. Liz meets Carey, a gorgeous local boy from Pound, WV, who has his own hidden talents, and the two work together to bring down her enemies. This is the first of a planned trilogy that will follow Liz and Carey as they strive to win back her freedom and dismantle the Coalition for good.What drives you as a writer?
It’s going to make me sound crazy, but it’s these voices in my head. Derry, Liz, and the characters from my other projects. They’re up there, whining around and wanting their stories told, and all I can do is put them down on paper. I’m a big reader, and there are so many characters from my favorite books that have become an important part of my life. I want Derry to be important to someone else.How do you make yourself stand out in this competitive genre?
That’s a really good question and one to which I wish I had a good answer. I’m still struggling to figure this out right now, but I think the most important thing is to be original, and to tell the story from your heart, not just write what you think people want to read. As a reader, I tend to gravitate toward stories that seem authentic, whether the plot or setting is realistic or not, and I hope to do the same in my own writing.I had an American Eskimo and a ginger cat when I was a kid. Tell us more about your pets.
Well, if you had an Eskie, you know how crazy they are. Finn is great, adorable, and fluffy. Basically a big stuffed animal, although he barks like a maniac and gets a bit overexcited sometimes. My cat Bella (not named after the Twilight character; I got her long before I ever heard of the books—just want to make that clear) is an absolute tyrant who hates pretty much everyone but me, and she only likes me part of the time. I call her my little venus flytrap because she lies on her back looking cute and adorable and the second you reach down to pet her tummy she grabs on with claws and won’t let go. But I love her anyway.You have pursued numerous degrees. What were your favorite courses of study?
My English degree is my most beloved, although least practical. If I could have my way, I would have pursued a doctorate in mythology and literature so I could be one of those somber looking professors who get interviewed on the History channel all the time. But my more practical side demanded the Communications track, which brought me to my love of rhetoric and public speaking, so everything turned out okay in the end.You like to travel. Where are some of your favorite destinations? Which remain on your bucket list?
My favorite destination is Cornwall. I went there as a graduation gift from my parents years ago and absolutely fell in love with the area. Vancouver, Canada is somewhere I visited and would dearly love to go back. Stateside, I have developed a fondness for the beaches at Sarasota, FL. There are tons of places left on my bucket list, but the main ones include Scotland (in particular the Orkney Isles), Ireland, Norway, Iceland, and Alaska. If you can’t tell, I like places with cooler weather.West Virginia is a beautiful state. Where do you recommend visitors go when they come?
As a lifelong WV girl, I do take a lot of pride in the beauty of my state. Southern WV, near Charleston and Huntington, is great for a taste of real WV culture and history, but my heart will always be in the eastern panhandle, near the Potomac. I lived in the Shepherdstown area for a third of my life and have yet to find anywhere else with the same charm and rough beauty. I’ve been to Harpers Ferry, the setting of Instinct, many times and defy anyone to tell me it’s not gorgeous.What is something readers may be surprised to learn about you?
I’m a closet karaoke nut. My version of “Total Eclipse of the Heart” is a religious experience.Is there anything else you would like to add?
I’d just like to thank you, my host, for such a great opportunity to talk about my book and inspiration. And I definitely want to thank all the readers who take a chance on self-published authors, letting people like me tell stories like Derry’s.Thank you so much for your time!
Mattie Dunman is a lifelong resident of "Wild & Wonderful" West Virginia, and has dreamed of being a writer since she first held a pen in hand.
Mattie has pursued several useless degrees to support this dream, and presently enjoys teaching (or tormenting, as the case may be) college students the dying art of public speaking. She spends most of her free time writing, but also indulges in reading and traveling.
She is the proud owner of an adorably insane American Eskimo named Finn, and a tyrant cat named Bella, who take up more of her attention than they probably should.
Please visit Mattie's website at www.mattiedunman.com and on Goodreads at http://www.goodreads.com/MattieDunman