Author Madeline Dyer writes dystopians, fantasy, and science fiction. She can often be found exploring wild places, and several notebooks are known to follow her. Please welcome her here on No Wasted Ink.
I’m a writer, freelance editor, and inline skater. I live on a farm in the southwest of England where I hang out with Shetland ponies and write books, sometimes at the same time. I hold a BA Honors degree in English from the University of Exeter. I have a strong love for anything dystopian, ghostly, or paranormal. At least one notebook is known to follow me as I go about exploring wild places.
When and why did you begin writing?
Well, I’ve always been a writer, and I can’t remember a time when I wasn’t creating stories. It really does seem like something I’ve always done—writing is just part of who I am. There’s something so special about escaping into a magical world, and writing is something I just have to do now. It keeps me sane!
When did you first consider yourself a writer?
I had my first short story published when I was sixteen years old, so I’d say that was the start of me considering myself to be a ‘proper’ writer. Before then, I definitely thought of myself as a writer, but I didn’t tell many other people.
Can you share a little about your current book with us?
Sure! So, A Dangerous Game is my latest dystopian release and it tells the story of Keelie Lin-Sykes, an impulsive young woman who struggles with her mental health and sense of self as she navigates a forbidden romance. And all of this is set against the backdrop of a war-stricken world where genetically-enhanced humans are trying to wipe out ordinary ’untamed’ people.
What inspired you to write this book?
A Dangerous Game is set in the same world as my Untamed series, and from the moment I started writing the series (which has a different narrator), I was intrigued by Keelie. She’s an adrenaline-junkie, she’s impulsive, and she’s not afraid to stand up for what she believes is right—even if it means going against the leader of her group.
But she has practically no page-time in the series as she’s not one of the characters who go on the run with my protagonist—but I kept finding that the characters who did reference Keelie a lot in their day-to-day life as they fought to survive in the dystopian world. She’d obviously had a huge impact on them as they grew up and her past actions were constantly shaping their behavior.
As I was writing the series, I just knew I needed to know more about Keelie, and so I decided to write a novella that would be all about her. But Keelie’s story kept spiraling bigger and bigger as I really got to know her, and it turned into one of my longest novels! And, thus, A Dangerous Game was born.
How did you come up with the title of this book?
Great question! I wanted something that encompasses Keelie’s view of looking at the world; she’s an adrenaline-junkie who thrives off-putting herself in dangerous situations, and she’s constantly pitting herself against the other characters. To her, everything is a competition, a game, and because of this, she doesn’t always see reality for what it is. Instead, she’s always trying to make things more exciting, to give herself more fun, and she’s become addicted to danger, constantly wanting more and more.
Is there a message in your novel that you want readers to grasp?
So, there are a number of things I want readers to take away after reading this book.
Firstly, I wanted to look at how a dystopian world can impact someone’s mental health in both the obvious and not-so-obvious ways—so if readers are still thinking about Keelie’s struggle and how her sense of identity changes throughout the story after they’ve finished reading, then that’s great.
Secondly, I wanted to examine trust—what it is, how it’s earnt, and how it changes as people grow and learn more about each other. This plays into the many unreliable characters who fill A Dangerous Game’s pages, and so I wanted reading it to be a bit of a game for readers as they try to work out who can be trusted and who is always telling the truth—and who’s not. (And for readers of my series who pick up this novel, there’s a secret revealed in A Dangerous Game that hugely changes the dynamics of something that happens in book one of the series, so there are surprises for everyone.)
The other big thing I wanted to do in writing this story was to include a character with autism, but I didn’t want to fall into any stereotypes or harmful representations. So often in fiction, I’ve seen characters with autism treated as burdens who slow down the protagonist or as someone who needs to protect no matter what. And I wanted to write a book which has a character with autism in it, but where that character isn’t solely defined by their autism. And this can be seen in A Dangerous Game through the character of Bea: yes, she has autism and this affects how she copes with living in such a turbulent, ever-changing dystopian world, but she also has her own storylines, her own love interest, a job, hobbies, skills that help the others in their survival, and dreams and goals of her own—just like any other character. And that was really important to me. In order to check my portrayal of autism in the book as I was writing it, I employed two sensitivity readers who have autism, and they each gave me great feedback on my writing and read multiple drafts of the manuscript, helping me ensure that there was no problematic representation.
What authors have most influenced your life? What about them do you find inspiring?
My list of authors who’ve most influenced me includes Virginia Woolf, Richelle Mead, and Rachel Caine. I think how prolific these writers are in producing books is definitely the biggest thing that inspires me on a daily basis—but also their versatility and how they’ve written in several different genres. I’m also greatly inspired by Charlotte Bronte and Charles Dickens due to how they created such believable characters, and Jean M. Auel for her immense world-building.
Who designed the cover of your book? Why did you select this illustrator?
The cover was designed by Molly Phipps at We Got You Covered Book Design. She also designed the covers for my series that’s set in the same world as A Dangerous Game, so she was an obvious choice for this book too.
Do you have any advice for other writers?
The most valuable thing I’ve done is getting into the habit of writing every day. Even if it’s just a few hundred words one day, or just some plotting work mapped out at the back of a notebook, it really helps me to stay in the mindset of whichever story I’m working on.
Do you have anything specific that you want to say to your readers?
Thank you so much for all your support, and I hope you love reading A Dangerous Game as much as I loved writing it!
A Dangerous Game
Cover Artist: Molly Phipps