My name is Esther Dalseno and I’m an Australian living in Berlin. I’m about to publish my debut novel, Drown, a YA crossover fantasy that I wrote entirely in Laos, South East Asia. I’m a big traveler, I left Sydney alone nearly ten years ago and worked my way across the world, teaching and writing. In three totally different countries, I acquired a husband, a daughter and a Pekingese dog (not necessarily in that order).
- Do you have a favourite place to write?
Yes, and it’s boring as anything: I like to be at home, in silence, and completely alone. Impossible with an infant daughter! I find music influences the tone and pacing of my writing, so I can’t have any of that.
- Do you have a writing routine or process that you adhere to?
I always edit any work I have done previously before I can write anything fresh. Then I procrastinate for maybe 2-3 hours, faffing about on social media and texting people. I tell myself, “I’ll just make another cup of coffee before I start” and then three cups later, I’ll write one sentence.
- Are there any authors or specific books you aspire to?
Absolutely. I’m in love with Gabriel Garcia Marquez and Isabel Allende. My idea of the “perfect” novel is Bel Canto by Ann Patchett. Other epic books I am in awe of include Jonathan Strange and Mr Norrell by Susanna Clarke, The Crimson Petal and the White by Michel Faber, and The Wind Up Bird Chronicles by Murakami.
- What inspired you to write Drown?
I was sick and tired of waiting for someone else to do it.
- Can you tell us a little about your book?
Drown is a dark and twisted retelling of Hans Christian Andersen’s The Little Mermaid.
- Do you have a favourite amongst all your characters?
I love a good villain. That’s all I’ll say. (Also: Voldemort was misunderstood, and Harry Potter overreacted.)
- Does your book contain a message for readers to consider?
Cliche, sure, but true: treasure each day. Our lives are short, we only get one. The power of free will. On a related note, perhaps after readers finish the novel, they will assume that I personally have certain ethics/religious beliefs. I assure you, I do not. I wanted to stay true to Andersen’s original intent for his story, and that’s all I will say in case I ruin it any further!
- What would say has been your biggest challenge and achievement in writing Drown?
Publishing. I am being published by a micro press, 3 Little Birds, and it’s very much a partnership where I exercise a lot of control and give my opinion very fearlessly! However, my journey to this point was long and arduous. My little writer’s heart was absolutely broken by the Big 6 back in 2010. I scored a very big agent with Drown on my first round of query emails, and even then, I had other offers of representation before I decided to sign with this wonderful soul. The results that followed were heartbreaking in the sense that I was so close to a substantial
book deal I could practically smell it. However, there were issues with censorship, and I had to delete words like “sperm” from the manuscript. Then there was a problem
with placement, as my writing was deemed too “literary” for YA audiences, and my themes far too dark, too adult. I think what it all boiled down to was the economic crisis at the time, and how the Big 6 were not about to risk plonking down cold, hard cash on such an indefinable manuscript and no-name author. We came very, very close. Mere inches away, really. But in 2015, the face of YA has changed. There is more “risky” subject matter, more adult content, more sex. Very real issues are being discussed. The writing is less frothy, more substantial. YA authors are finally being taken seriously as writers.
- What have you learned about yourself as a writer through writing Drown?
That I am a quitter! Seriously. After all that heartbreak, I absolutely gave up. I buried myself in a dark cave and hibernated. I couldn’t write another word. I refused to tell anyone about it, and certainly never mentioned I was a writer! Then when it became apparent I was going to be a mother, I knew I had to try again. That I couldn’t teach my daughter to go for her dreams and never give up if I was a quitter.
- Do you have any advice for other aspiring authors?
Never, ever, ever give up. And when you are not writing, read.
- Anything else you would like to say?
Just that I am overwhelmed by the response to Drown already, on premise alone, as it hasn’t yet been released. Social media is full of wise, creative, supportive and accepting souls.
- And finally, do you have any future works planned?
My second novel, Gabriel and the Swallows, is due for release in early 2016. It is a coming-of-age story set in Italy during the 1960’s: mysterious winged creatures, a beautiful Turkish boy followed by an unexplained swarm of swallows, feverish Roman nights, murder most foul, vineyard escapades, everlasting love.
Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/drownbydalseno