The Pilot Press

Exclusive Q&A with Author Susan Dennard

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Stefi Cerqueira '17, Staff Writer

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“On a continent ruled by three empires, some are born with a ‘witchery’, a magical skill that sets them apart from others.

In the Witchlands, there are almost as many types of magic as there are ways to get in trouble–as two desperate young women know all too well.

Safiya is a Truthwitch, able to discern truth from lie. It’s a powerful magic that many would kill to have on their side, especially amongst the nobility to which Safi was born. So Safi must keep her gift hidden, lest she be used as a pawn in the struggle between empires.”

New York Times Bestselling author Susan Dennard recently ended her national book tour to kick off the release of the first book in her new young adult fantasy series, Truthwitch. Debuting in January, it was one of the most anticipated releases of 2016 and landed the 4th spot on the New York Times Bestseller list the moment it hit the shelves. Dennard has been praised for her previous series, Something Strange & Deadly, and is currently working on the second book in her series as well as an on-going adult sci-fi epic, The Starkillers Cycle, with bestselling author Sarah J. Maas (which can be read online at



One of the stops on Dennard’s tour was here in San Diego at the Mysterious Galaxy Independent Bookstore, where aspiring writers were able to ask Dennard their pressing questions.

Did you always know that you wanted to be a writer?

“I always wrote for fun, but it wasn’t until I was about 12-years-old that I realized authors weren’t just mythical unicorns and that I could one day join their illustrious ranks. I started writing stories then. Terrible ones, and many of them fan fictions or total rip-offs of my favorite books. Over time, though, I started to branch out into more original stuff (still terrible, though!), and in high school, I wrote heaps and heaps of short stories.

“Flash forward 6 years, and it was time to go to college. I wanted to be an author, but I was petrified at the thought of sharing my work with anyone. So, I allowed myself to be sidetracked by marine biology (which I really did and still do deeply love).

“Flash forward another 6 years, and I’d just finished my masters of science. I had a choice between moving with my new fiancé to Germany or pursuing my PhD…and I chose love. HA! But lucky for me, aside from some freelance data analysis for my old university, I couldn’t actually find a full-time job in Germany, which gave me time to–you guessed it–write!

“I wrote my first full book at 25. ‘Twas awful, so I stashed it away and started a new book, using all that I learned from the first. That second book was what eventually became my first published novel: Something Strange & Deadly.”

How was your publishing process?

“The publishing process is a long one (for a full step-by-step guide, visit my website at So prior to diving in, I taught myself as much of the ropes as I could. Once I’d decided I wanted to try to get traditionally published, I [knew I] couldn’t blow it….I had one shot at this before I would have to get a more consistent, well-paying job.

“So, as I worked on Something Strange & Deadly, I took online workshops and interacted with aspiring authors (and published authors as well). I read interviews and took more online workshops. I studied books on the industry and took even more online workshops. All the while, I revised and revised and revised…my book so that it would be the absolute best it could be before I sent it out to literary agents.

“Finally, after a year of this, one of my critique partners [stated]: ‘You have revised this book so much, you literally [cannot] make it any better. It’s time to let go of your fear and just query.’

“So I did, and luckily, all that prep work paid off! I got an agent and a publishing deal pretty quickly. And of course, the rest is history.”

What is it like being an author?

“The greatest thing ever. Seriously, I mean, it has a LOT of hard aspects (as they say: ‘Getting published isn’t the hard part, it’s the first hard part.’), but the rewards are so vast. Meeting and interacting with readers, in particular, is just about the greatest experience ever…I can’t emphasize how much I love that part of my job. I mean, I get to see the impact that all my hard work has had on readers–not to mention, it’s just FUN to meet new people!”

What kind of hardships do you face as a female writer?

“Gosh, you know, I have to say: I’ve been lucky. Young adult literature is really filled with women. In fact, I only know 3 male YA authors out of the hundreds of female authors I know! So, in all honestly, there haven’t been that many hardships. It’s a wonderfully supportive, generous community of women from all backgrounds.”

What is your advice to young women who would like to be writers?

“Don’t rush yourself. I think a lot of us think: I need to do this now! I want to be published now! But the reality is that the more you live, the more rich your writing becomes. The publishing career can come at any time (you’re never too old to publish a book!), but the life part? The travel, the school, the meeting friends (and losing friends), the falling in love, the reading for hours and hours–all of that is best done while you’re young and able. Once you’re actually in the publishing world, it’s almost impossible to find time for it, and in hindsight, I am SO glad that my fear of sharing my work actually held me back. If it hadn’t, I would never have traveled to 6 out of the 7 continents or met my husband or couch-surfed across Croatia (which was the actual inspiration behind Truthwitch). I would’ve missed so much EPIC stuff!

“So…live, explore, write…but don’t worry about publishing. It’ll happen when it’s meant to happen.”

Visit to learn more about Dennard’s books, and follow her on Twitter @stdennard.

Want to know if any authors are coming to San Diego? Visit the Mysterious Galaxy bookstore’s website at

And in the words of Susan Dennard herself: “Always be the truth in a storm of lies.”

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Exclusive Q&A with Author Susan Dennard