Author Della Connor is a rare breed in the ever growing world of Young Adult series. While so many other series continue along the formula of vampires, werewolves, or magicians, Della has went back to the roots of North American Indian culture.
Her books take on young adult through a uniquely American style that not only creates a supernatural world that readers can escape to, but relates to them in a way that many YA series fails to do.
Della was kind enough to sit down around the digital camp fire to talk about her series and upcoming projects.
Review for The Concealing
Review for The Scarring
The Spirit Warrior series follows the life of young Emmeline Belrose. As a debut author, why did you decide to go with a young adult series?
It didn’t start out that way! This story evolved from a short story I wrote in an English class in college back when there was no young adult genre. The professor even told me that it was too dark for children’s literature and too immature for adult literature. To be honest, I didn’t know where to go from there and I shelved the idea. Several years later J.K. Rowling burst on the scene with Harry Potter and then came the Twilight Series and The Hunger Games. The young adult genre was born and I thought it was now or never!
How long did the idea of a Native American based YA series germinate in your head before you decided to pursue writing?
I was born in South Dakota and raised in Eastern Montana. I was a nerdy kid who read the back of cereal boxes for entertainment. I checked out books about Montana history from the library just so I could have something to read. I was always mesmerized by the Battle of Little BigHorn and everything about General Custer, Sitting Bull and Crazy Horse. I still am! I knew this story would have some aspect of Native American folklore in it, but the extent of the immersion didn’t come out until I met members of the Alabama Coushatta tribe here in Texas and some of the details of their beliefs inspired me to imagine a world different than the one I knew. I guess you could say the series has been around my entire life.
There are a lot of very successful formulaic YA series out there such as Twilight or the Percy Jackson Series. What is it that sets yours apart?
I think what sets the Spirit Warriors apart is the undying, unrelenting friendship of Emme, Charlie, Lilly, Jack, Bets and Ollie. Each is an outcast of sorts, but together no one can touch them or hurt them. Their friendship isn’t perfect, but it’s forever.
You tackle a lot of young adult issues in your book, such as sexuality, gay themes, and abuse. How has this been received by your readership?
Well so far the reviews have been good. I have had teachers tell me that their students are desperate for books that deal with real life issues. I want kids who read the series to identify with the characters and know that they are not alone. Others feel the same way they do. I’m also hoping that they can find the strength to stand up for their friends regardless of their sexual preference, personality, income, gender, or race. It breaks my heart to hear of kids who commit suicide because they were different. We are all “different.” It doesn’t mean you have to die.
How do you prounounce “machayiwiw”?
Mach (as in macho) aye oo oo (like the last syllable in the word shoe). I am not an expert in Native American language, but based on the syllables this would be a close approximation.
Every series needs a great “heavy”. Sometimes they even define a series. What makes the machayiwiw a great bad guy?
The machayiwiw definitely defines this series! He is the ultimate bad guy as he has amazing powers that circumvent even death. He has had centuries to hone his abilities and dwell on revenge, and he has the ability to hide in the most unusual places. You will get a deeper peek into his abilities in book 3, Spirit Warriors:The Burning which should be out spring of 2015.
In The Concealing, one of the major characters comes to a tragic end. Out of the group of friends, how many more do you think might not make it?
As Emme is told in book 3, “all will be scarred, not all will survive.” I almost hate to say that as the characters are so beloved that readers become angry when something happens to them. My niece was totally upset at me about book 1. When book 2 came out the first thing she asked was “does anyone die in this book?” I may get booted out of the family if I kill off anyone else!
In the love triangle between Jack, Charlie, and Emmaline, who are you rooting for?
I can’t say. I don’t want to put one before the other to the readers. Did you seriously think I would answer that? I know how it ends! :)
(Editor’s note: Sigh…)
How’s the new book coming along? When do you expect it to be launched?
Good question. The latest update is late this spring for book 3 The Burning and if all goes well probably early fall 2015 for Book 4, The Lamenting.
What other projects do you have coming up?
The Spirit Warriors series will be a total of 5 books and a prequel. I am taking a break from the series this summer, breaking genre, and writing a southern romance fictional book titled Damn you Maude Lobb. It is a love story about a reclusive Eleanor Rigby type older lady who lives behind the hidden gates of Sweetgum Manor and 2 nurses, Ticky named by the lady of the manor who said she was fat as a tick on a hound dog, and Birdy also named for her love of birds. They find the love story behind Mamie Jean and Douglas Everritt a MIA fighter pilot lost in Nam. Stay tuned…