Author of Rise of the Dragon Queen
This Easter Monday, I am chatting with fantasy author, Darrah Stefffen, about her recent release Rise of the Dragon Queen.
Welcome Darrah. Congratulations on publishing your first novel which was released on March 13th of this year; you must be so excited! Please tell us a little about your book.
Darrah: Rise of the Dragon Queen is my first book. It is set in an alternative realm on a planet called Ethota. This world has developed life that we would consider fantastical. The main population called the Elvateth have enhanced senses, and some have the ability to control the elements. In the story, the creatures of old have vanished. The dragons are endangered and the country of Dragonia is being ruled by a tyrant, persecuting magic users. A Resistance has formed to fight against the King. When her sister is kidnapped, Jennica embarks on her own journey to save her. She must align with unlikely allies to bring her sister home, but as she does so an ancient threat arises to take over their weakened country.
Helen: What a complex story; it sounds action packed. What sparked the idea to write this book?
Darrah: I originally started writing this book as a form of stress relief when I was in college. I went to school in a very science heavy field, but I always enjoyed being creative. So being in a science heavy field, it was stressful to not have that creative outlet. So I started writing. This book came out of that. It was based on an idea that I had been playing with over a long time. I created this world way back in elementary school with my two best friends during recess games.
Helen: Such a complete opposite to the day job! How did you first find that creative spark? To be able to write a book and finish it is an amazing accomplishments. So many books are begun but never finished. I have a couple languishing on my computer that I must get back to! What started you off writing?
Darrah: When I was a kid, I had a hard time reading and writing. I wasn’t testing dyslexic, but it was close. Because it was so hard, I hated it, but I loved telling stories. To try and get me interested in writing, my parents and teachers had me write stories. The caveat was I could only use words I knew how to spell. To tell the stories I wanted to tell, I had to learn new words, learn to spell things. I thought it was a fun adventure. That has followed me throughout my life. I still love learning new words and telling stories.
Helen: Congratulations on overcoming some challenging obstacles. It is so great that you were able to find a way to still express yourself and grow your creative side. Your creative side was obviously determined to be heard! You have built a fantastical world for your novel, how do you come up with ideas?
Darrah: I mentioned earlier I went to school for a science heavy field. I have a Master’s degree in the Geosciences and work in Paleontology. So, one of the big things that help me when coming up with ideas for stories is asking “What if” questions. I try to think about what if the world had two moons or how dragons would exist or what if magic existed in our world.
Another way that I get ideas for stories is through dreams. I have gotten migraines with auras since I was nine. The aura I get is called “Alice in Wonderland” Syndrome where I see lights and shifting sizes of objects. When I sleep with this migraine, I get very vivid dreams and nightmares. Some of these dreams have inspired story ideas.
Helen: I am so glad you have been able to adapt what could be a very dehabilitating experience into a positive one. I love the nod to your paleontology background with the cover! With a combination of science and creativity in your life, how do you write? Do you have to plan everything or do you let it flow?
Darrah: I tend to be a plantser. I have a loose framework to guide me. These would be more of the large plot points. I generally say the ending and mid points. Then I let the story flow between these points. I really like the organic way the story develops in those in between parts but found that having at least those concrete goals helps writing go smoother.
Helen: Which characters do you prefer to write, heroes or villains?
Darrah: I really enjoy writing the strange characters. I like writing the characters whose motives are unknown or a little fuzzy. I like writing the characters that are just a little out there. They are unpredictable and can surprise even me as I’m writing.
Helen: Tell us a little about your writing environment, do you prefer silence or do you surround your self with music?
Darrah: I love music. I play two instruments – the trumpet and the piano. So music has always been a large part of my life. Music helps inspire me while I write. For every story I am actively working on, I have a playlist that helps me get into the mindset of the characters or the themes of the book. For example, the “theme song” of the main villain of Rise of the Dragon Queen is Castle by Halsey.
Helen: Love it. I tend to have a specific album playing when I write. I am currently brainstorming ideas for a new novel that was sparked by an Olly Murs song. The lyrics just resonated and off I went! If you didn’t write fantasy are there any other genres that tempt you?
Darrah: I would like to try some hard science fiction next. I love writing fantasy. I love magic systems and fantasy creatures, but I also love space and technology. So eventually I would like to try out that hard science fiction.
Helen: Thank you so much for joining me today, it has been a pleasure chatting with you. I wish you all the best with your new novel, Rise of the Dragon Queen. To close us out, tell us about what you are working on next.
Darrah: Now I am working on the sequels to Rise of the Dragon Queen. The second book, Keepers of Knowledge, is currently in edits. I am also working on the first draft of the third book in the series.
About the Author:
Darrah Steffen is a Kansas native, now living in North Dakota with her husband, her dog Willow, and her cat Jasper. Rise of the Dragon Queen is her first book. She loves to write worlds with weird and new creatures.
Darrah is trained as a geologist and paleontologist – which plays into her worldbuilding. When she is not writing, she works as a fossil preparator. She is also an avid board gamer, enjoys playing music with her husband, and cuddling with her pets.
Social Media Links:
You can purchase her novel, Rise fo the Dragon Queen on Amazon: