Canadian author Dianna Gunn is here today to discuss her hot-selling YA fantasy and what the future holds for her. So let’s get to it.
Welcome, Dianna. Please describe Keeper of the Dawn in three words.
Passionate, hopeful, magical.
What part of the story came to you first?
Lai started out as a character in a fantasy parody project which will never see the light of day. She quickly became the most interesting thing about the book, so I scrapped it and wrote her story instead.
What was the biggest surprise when you were writing Keeper of the Dawn?
That it was a book at all. I started with a short story of about 6,000 words, focused mostly on the priestess trials that are now the first third of the book. Every draft made it longer, sometimes only a couple thousand words longer, once or twice 10,000 words longer. The final edits brought it almost to 40,000 words. So it’s still a short book, but it’s a book. It’s still kind of weird to me, to be honest.
If you could have lunch with any one person, alive or dead, who would it be?
Definitely Sir Terry Pratchett. I haven’t read anything close to the entire Discworld series, but I’ve read enough to be astounded by the quality of his work. Being funny in fiction, especially novels, is hard, which is why I never wrote that parody project. I am astounded by his ability to remain funny until the very end.
What’s next for you?
So many things! I’ve actually started writing a non-fiction book with the working title Self Care for Creative People and I’m editing an adult fantasy novelette (around 10,000 words) for self publication hopefully in October. And I’m about to start editing Moonshadow’s Guardian, a full length fantasy novel I plan to release next fall.
Here’s a little about Keeper of the Dawn for your reading pleasure.
All Lai has ever wanted is to become a priestess, like her mother and grandmother before her, in service to her beloved goddess. That’s before the unthinkable happens, and Lai fails the trials she’s trained for her entire life. She makes the only choice she believes she can: she runs away.
From her isolated desert homeland, Lai rides north to the colder, stranger kingdom of Alanum – a land where magic, and female warriors, are not commonplace.
Here, she hears tales about a mountain city of women guardians and steel forgers, worshipping goddesses who sound very similar to Lai’s own. Determined to learn more about these women, these Keepers of the Dawn, Lai travels onward to find their temple. She is determined to make up for her past failure, and will do whatever it takes to join the sacred order.
Falling in love with another initiate wasn’t part of the plan.
Keeper of the Dawn is a story of new beginnings, second chances, and the endurance of hope.
Lai practiced until well after dark, ignoring the call for supper. She tore a massive hole into one of the dummies with a training sword in her rage, but it didn’t make her feel better. She had spent most of her life training for this day, and Kaiden ruined it with a few words about their father.
Eventually she gave up and collapsed in a heap on the ground, pulling her knees up to her chest so she could rest her chin on them. She forced herself to breathe deeply, using all her willpower to push the rage into the ground. Bit by bit it drained into the soil around her, dispersing harmlessly.
She sat like that in the clearing until clouds engulfed the stars and rain started pouring, one of the last rains before the dry weeks of summer. Lifting the hood of her robes to cover her head, she rose and hurried towards the temple.
Her left foot caught on something and Lai flew through the air, losing her grip on her sword and landing face first in a puddle. Her nose shattered when it smashed into the tough ground, and when she grabbed it to feel the damage her hand came away covered in equal parts mud and blood. Her stomach churned as she picked herself back up, her whole body aching.
Something sharp pierced her back, tearing into her skin and muscles like sharp fire. She screamed and fell face first to the ground. She caught herself on her forearms, avoiding bashing her head against the rocky path.
Lai’s attacker pulled the knife out of her shoulder. She screamed as warm blood flowed freely down her back, mixing with the rain. Fiery agony filled her body, blurring her vision. She gritted her teeth and flipped over to face her attacker.
She froze at the familiar sight of white robes with golden cuffs. Another initiate. Her hood hid her face completely.
Lai gathered her strength with a deep, ragged breath and reached for her training sword. The initiate kicked Lai in the back then stomped on her wrist, grinding bone under her boot, sending sharp waves of pain up Lai’s arm.
“You understand, it has to be me.”
Lai knew that voice, but she couldn’t focus on it through the pain, couldn’t remember who it was.
The initiate seized a clump of Lai’s hair and yanked her head backwards. She knelt and raised her knife towards Lai’s exposed throat.
Something knocked the initiate into Lai’s back. Black spots appeared at the edges of her vision as agony surged outward from her wound. The other initiate didn’t move, suffocating Lai with her weight. Lai tried to lift herself up with her elbows, but a fresh wave of pain knocked the wind out of her. She collapsed onto her stomach and closed her eyes, willing her body to die quickly.
Dianna L. Gunn is a freelance writer by day and a fantasy author by night. She had known she wanted to be a writer since she was eight years old. Dianna wrote her first novel for Nanowrimo at the age of eleven years old, but quickly discovered that writing books is not an easy way to make a living. So she decided to broaden her horizons, seeking another career that still allowed her to work with words.
Her freelance writing career started when she became a marketing intern at Musa Publishing (now defunct) in September 2011 and quickly became a staff writer in charge of multiple imprint blogs. Since then she has worked with a variety of small businesses and non-profits to improve their online brands and create long term marketing strategies. Some of her most notable work has been for the tech education non-profit STEAMLabs and natural dog care company ProPooch. She is dedicated to helping her clients build successful brands and making their dreams come true.
Need help creating awesome content for your business? Send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org explaining what your needs are, and she will help you.
When she isn’t helping her clients bring their dreams to life, Dianna can be found working on her own dream of being a successful fantasy author. Dianna blogs about writing, creativity, and books at The Dabbler.