Pen friends ~ Another fantastic interview from debut author, Dante Medema, talking about her upcoming book, The Truth Project, coming out with Harper Teen this fall! She also shares about her querying journey, her 5-editor 6 figure auction dream acquisition story (& the crazy event that followed that news!), and her thoughts on dreamy Alaska settings.
SP: Hi Dante! Thanks for joining us! Before we get into book stuff, we’d LOVE to know a bit about you and your writing journey?
DM: Thanks for having me! I’ve always loved writing. I took a creative writing course in college and I remember thinking “I can’t believe how much fun this is!” Then after my husband and I started our family, I stayed home with the kids, and it became my outlet. Somewhere in there I thought “maybe I could try to do this for real” and I made a go of it!
SP: The Truth Project will come out with Harper Teen this fall (2020). Seriously, how did it feel when your book went to a 5 editor, six- figure auction?!?!?
DM: It was insane! I kept feeling like it was a dream. Believe it or not, the auction wasn’t even the craziest thing that happened that day! Right after I got off the phone with my agent that morning, we were hit with a 7.2 earthquake. Most of the day was spent getting my family in one place and dealing with the aftermath of that. Cell service got knocked out too, so I couldn’t call my agent until the whole thing was over!
Here is a blurb:
Seventeen-year-old Cordelia Koenig was sure of many things going into her last year of high school. For one, she wasn’t going to stress over the senior project all her peers were dreading—she’d just use the same find-your-roots genealogy idea that her older sister used for hers. Secondly, she’d put all that time spent not worrying about the project toward getting reacquainted with former best friend and longtime crush Kodiak Jones who, conveniently, gets assigned as Cordelia’s partner.
All she has to do is mail in her DNA sample, write about her ancestry results and breeze through the rest of senior year. Done, done and done.
But when Cordelia’s GeneQuest results reveal that her father is not the man she thought he was but a stranger who lives thousands of miles away, Cordelia realizes she isn’t sure of anything anymore—not the mother who lied, the life she was born into or the girl staring back at her in the mirror.
If your life began with a lie, how can you ever be sure of what’s true?
SP: Is The Truth Project your first novel? How did this idea come about?
DM: Sometime after I did my own DNA kit, my sister called and asked me if I thought there was a chance that she was the product of an affair. We grew up with a bit of a complicated family dynamic, but luckily our story ended differently than in my book. But in the back of my mind I started playing with the idea, and ultimately I ended up ditching the project I was working on to write this.
SP: How long did it take you to write The Truth Project? What is your first draft philosophy? Do you write it all at once then edit? Or outline extensively and go chapter by chapter?
DM: This book FLEW out of me. From the time I got the idea to the time I was querying was about six weeks. I’m a hardcore plotter—I’m talking spreadsheets and post-it notes. I need to know every single thing that’s going to happen right up until the last page before I start writing. Then I write an epic outline, make my critique partners read it, and once that’s all done, I can finally draft.
SP: Let’s talk ALASKA. Go Alaskan writers! (*Not at all biased because my husband is from there…lol!) You are Alaskan currently based in Anchorage, and you are also the Conference Chair / Board Secretary for the Alaska Writer’s Guild. Can you tell us more about what you do there and what are some of the happenings in the writing scene is in Alaska?
DM: ALASKA! A few years ago I got involved with The Alaska Writers Guild as the secretary. We bring support to Alaskan writers in a lot of different ways—monthly programs, meetings, and workshops, but the one closest to my heart is probably the conference. That’s why this year I’m also stepping in as a Conference Co-Chair with my friend Brooke Hartman!
SP: Last Alaska question: Does the rugged, wild, and remote beauty of Alaska seep into your stories? How does your surrounding inspire you?
DM: Yes, of course! I think it is impossible to live in Alaska and NOT be inspired. Everything about this state seems to radiate beauty. Every day I pass something that I think would make a beautiful postcard, but the thing that has most inspired me are the people that live here. Most stories set here seem to highlight the elements, and landscapes. But it’s also a real place with people living normal lives, experiencing heartaches even within that vacation-worthy backdrop.
SP: Cupcakes & Books. Um, seriously. You put many to shame! How did this book cupcake hobby come about? (SEE PICS HERE)
DM: I’ve always been a sucker for a good cupcake, but when my kids started requesting crazy decorated cakes for their birthday I started watching a whole lot of YouTube tutorials.
SP: Querying & Agents–we love hearing about this part of an authors story. What was your journey like before you signed with your agent?
DM: I queried another project to DEATH (we’re talking YEARS) before I got my offer. It was a story I love and a story I think I’ll go back to someday, but ultimately, I wasn’t as ready as I thought I was. With THE TRUTH PROJECT I wasn’t querying very long at all (maybe a couple months) when my agent offered representation. I wrote two other books that I never queried.
SP: Submission & Publishing world. What was entering this sphere like for you and what is something you have learned long the way?
DM: Oh man. I feel like I’ve had such a fairy tale experience thus far. I think the biggest thing I’ve learned is that writers all start from the same place. Be it a NYT best seller or someone starting a very first book, we’re all looking at a blank page in the beginning.
SP: Now to lighten things up: (optional)
Is Dante a night owl/early bird? Plotter/Pantster? Beach/Mountain? The best places have both ❤ Katniss/Anne of Green Gables?
Last book you read? Speaking of books set in Alaska, THE GREAT ALONE by Kristin Hannah.
Current dream vacation spot? I really want to visit Italy next. Or the British Isles. Oh! And Machu Picchu! I really want to see everything!
Would you rather be a professional: Marine Biologist? Spy? Opera Singer? Brain Surgeon? Probably a spy. I can’t swim, no one wants to hear me sing, and they DEFINITELY don’t want me to be working on their brain!
Current fictional crush? Dr. Covey in TO ALL THE BOYS I’VE LOVED BEFORE for sure. Swoon. Worthy. Girl-Dad.
Favorite childhood book? THE GIVER really changed me. It’s the first time I remember feeling like I’d never be the same after I finished reading.
SP: Thank you, Dante! So excited for your book, and we wish you the BEST of LUCK!!!
Readers & writers connect with Dante here:
Nova, signing off.