Please welcome Margaret to WFW!
Margaret Dilloway Shares A Story Of Estranged Sisters, A Secret Book, And Female Samurai
Margaret: I have actually wanted to write about sisters for a while. HOW TO BE AN AMERICAN HOUSEWIFE originally had sisters in it, until it became a mother-daughter story. And now that I’m a mother of two daughters and have witnessed how close they are– how they have their own special bond– I wondered what would happen to two adult sisters who lost that bond, and how devastating that would feel.
Amy: Also central to the story is the book the sister search for, and that story is offered separately from your novel. Did you intend to write a book that fit within the novel? Was it a daunting process to write two stories that are essentially part one larger story?
Margaret: No, I didn’t start out with the intention of writing an entire book that fit within the novel– I knew I’d have a book within a book, but I thought it’d be shorter.
The problem with writing a book incorporating something like this is the tendency to either have a huge story where the central theme gets lost because there are too many threads. So you have a long, but unsatisfactory story. Originally I had a lot of historical elements that, while interesting, kind of cast a shadow on the core of the story. So I cut it down the historical part, instead making it highlight the themes of the main story.
I had enough of the historical story left– including the POV of another character– to make its own standalone book. So it was my idea to make that book available, too.
Amy: I love culture as a ingredient in contemporary fiction. How did you decide which bit of Japanese culture, and a Japanese-American family would be integral to the story? Or did the story and characters tell you?
Margaret: I knew I wanted to write about female samurai because I never knew they existed! And I’m fascinated with the whole idea of tracing your ancestry and how finding out about your family tree, for good or bad, can affect how you feel.
Including the female warrior was the big chunk of Japanese culture I decided to include. The other parts were dictated by the characters. The girls are pretty much cut off from their heritage, except for some not great parts of it.
Amy: For the first time, I’m using index cards for characters, facts, and events while I’m writing my next novel. What’s your method for “keeping things straight” while you’re writing?
Margaret: Umm, does writing things on Post-It notes and sticking them all over my desk count as a system? (Yes! Yes, it does!) That’s pretty much been my system to date, but I’m working on making a character list sheet– like a cast list of a play– stating the characters’ birthdays, hair color, etc.
Amy: Do you have any new ideas or new books brewing that you can share?
Margaret: I don’t have any WF news to share yet. My next book out is actually going to be a middle grade book, XANDER AND THE LOST ISLAND OF MONSTERS, from Disney-Hyperion next year. It’s a fun, contemporary retelling of a classic Japanese tale, Momotaro the peach boy, about a boy who fights the demons who threaten the world. (Congratulations!)
Amy: What’s your best advice for aspiring authors of women’s fiction?
Margaret: Find your unique voice, the thing that makes you you, and be you proudly.
Margaret Dilloway is the author of How to Be an American Housewife and The Care and Handling of Roses with Thorns. She teaches creative writing classes at San Diego Writers Ink and to high school students at her alma mater, and recently signed a 2-book deal with Disney-Hyperion for a middle-grade fantasy series that will be published in June 2016. Margaret lives in Southern California with her husband and their three children.
And if a novel isn’t enough—in a unique historical twist—Margaret’s main character, Tomoe Gozen, is based on a real-life female samurai found in history, and she has family ties to Margaret herself. The complete story of Tomoe is available as a full-length eBook: THE TALE OF THE WARRIOR GEISHA.