Book Nerd Interview
Arwen Elys Dayton spends months doing research for her stories. Her explorations have taken her around the world to places like the Great Pyramid (which she explored by a single fading flashlight when researching Resurrection), Hong Kong and its many islands, and lots of ruined castles in Scotland. She enjoys creating complete worlds inhabited by characters who charm, frustrate or inspire.
Arwen lives with her husband and their three children on the West Coast of the United States. You can follow her @arwenelysdayton on Twitter and Instagram, or reach her by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Why is storytelling so important for all of us?
I believe storytelling is how we reimagine the world and ourselves. We want to tell stories to make our own lives feel more comfortable, or more tolerable, or to give perspective to our own problems. At their best, stories inspire us to grow in new ways, and telling stories keeps the world and its possibilities infinite.
What’s one thing that readers would be surprised to find out about you?
I didn't show up to my first day at Stanford, then I continued to never show up. I got a job working as a writer for a PBS show instead.
When did you write your first book and how old were you?
When I was 8, I wrote a long science-fiction saga about a prince from another planet who comes to Earth to rescue his younger sister who was kidnapped and brought here. Or maybe his family carelessly left her here, or maybe she even ran away—the details are getting fuzzy and my parents did not keep the manuscript! But I assure you it was as grand an adventure as the 8-year-old me could imagine.
I not only wrote this book by hand in my really big 8-year-old handwriting, but I forced my entire class to listen to it during read-aloud.
What was the greatest thing you learned at school?
How to research any topic until I had a good grasp of it. It's the skill I've used most! Every writer uses this skill, but I think it's extremely valuable no matter what you do with your life. So much of school can be sitting there letting someone else tell you what's important. Research turns that around, and you're in the driver's seat figuring out the meaning and importance of a subject for yourself.
How would you describe yourself in three words?
"Hardworking nerdy bookworm." (In fact, my husband often describes me in exactly this way.)
In your new book, Seeker, can you tell my Book Nerd Community a little about it and why they should read your novel?
I like to describe Seeker as a heroic family tale gone terribly wrong.
The characters are teenagers who've spent much of their lives on a remote family estate in Scotland, preparing for what they think is a noble calling—becoming Seekers. From early childhood, when they began their training, their heads have been filled with stories about Seekers who toppled long-ago tyrant kings, freed prisoners unjustly held, and did all manner of good things in the world. They believe they will become modern versions of these legends.
But what if their families have not been honest with them? What if they are being trained for a very different purpose?
When the truth is revealed, their secluded little world is broken apart, and things get...dangerous, complicated and savage.
For those who are unfamiliar with Quin, how would you introduce her?
Quin Kincaid is fifteen-years-old and has spent most of her life on the isolated estate in Scotland. She's smart and optimistic and loyal, and she's willing to fight hard for what she believes in—she's a bit of an idealist.
Quin would have more of a sense of humor if the last few years hadn't been so physically demanding. But the recent past has been full of brutal training, as she prepares to take her oath and become a Seeker.
She has complete faith in her future, though, and no suspicions about what lies beyond her oath. She's certain she'll be embarking on an honorable and exhilarating life.
For Quin, the truth will come very hard. Everything is about to change.
If you could introduce one of your characters to any character from another book, who would it be and why?
I love this question! I'd like to introduce John Hart to Tyrion Lannister from A Song of Ice and Fire (Game of Thrones). They could talk about living under pressure from their relatives.
If you had to choose, which writer would you consider a mentor?
This is hard, but I have to choose C.S. Lewis, because reading the Narnia series as a young kid (over and over, by the way) set my imagination into overdrive. I read many, many other books as a kid, but that series stands out as the first to make me think about creating other worlds.
You have the chance to give one piece of advice to your readers. What would it be?
Read all sorts of different books, and in your life, meet and take an interest in all sorts of different people. If you want to be a writer, both of these are essential, but I think they're pretty helpful in being an all-around good person as well.
What's the most memorable summer job you've ever had?
One summer I was a teaching assistant for elementary school kids. I absolutely love working with kids, and I really loved helping 9- and 10-year-olds, who were so blunt and funny and so delighted when they learned something new. When you help a kid you know you've done something meaningful!
What decade during the last century would you have chosen to be a kid?
I would love to have been a kid in the 1940s. I'm probably imagining that era with rose-colored glasses, but I'm drawn to the team spirit, optimism, and the idea that "the world has infinite opportunities" that seemed to define the kids of that era.
What scares you the most and why?
I get a little scared of how much time we're all spending on our phones and online. I love everything we can do online and how many people I'm in touch with every day because of the Internet. But...there was something magical about being a child without the Internet. There was something magical about being bored and not being able to immediately look at a screen that would take away my boredom (my parents didn't let me watch much TV). There was something magical about having to make your own games in the back yard or the woods behind your house, or at the end of your street with all your friends from the neighborhood. I suppose I'm a little scared of my own kids not having the real world as much as I did.
What is your greatest adventure?
I graduated from high school when I was 16, and moved to Europe for a year to work as a tutor for the kids of an Austrian artist. I got to create a curriculum for them and those kids and I dragged each other across Europe, where we explored old churches and castles, made art, crossed the English Channel and used the world as our classroom. It was great!
When was the last time you told someone you loved them?
This morning, when my nine-year-old gave me a kiss goodbye as I dropped her off at school!
When was the last time you cried?
This is an embarrassing question, because I cry a lot (I might have cried a little bit on the "What scares you the most?" question). I don't often cry from sadness, but I cry all the time because of emotional or beautiful music, stories, movies, and even ideas I have for something I want to write. I'm not sure if this means I'm a huge softie, too sensitive, or just completely willing to cry...but there you have it; tears flow freely. I used to take an acting class and didn't understand why the other students thought it was a big deal to be able to cry on cue. I can totally do that!
Where can readers stalk you?
I have a website, arwendayton.com, where you can get a look at some of the places featured in my stories (like Scotland, Hong Kong, and Egypt), and I'm on Twitter and Instagram @arwenelysdayton. In the real world, I split my time between Los Angeles and the Northwest, so you might bump into me on 3rd Street Promenade in Santa Monica, or find me writing and drinking coffee at Community Plate in McMinnville, Oregon. Their coffee is the best!
Only when it’s too late does she discover she will be using her new-found knowledge and training to become an assassin. Quin's new role will take her around the globe, from a remote estate in Scotland to a bustling, futuristic Hong Kong where the past she thought she had escaped will finally catch up with her.