Hey, friends! Last October, I published my second novel, Destiny Seeker: The Defender. I hosted an Instagram Live Q&A to celebrate and share more about the book. I wasn’t able to address every question, so here’s a complete Q&A about my books, my writing and publishing experience, and other fun things you wanted to know.
Destiny Seeker Series Questions
Are there any secrets from DSTD that you can share with us?
Probably the juiciest thing I can think of is that I rewrote the ending three times. I changed some huge things each time! I do what I can to take the beta reading feedback and I’m proud of the published ending.
Can you share something about the book that’s not in the blurb?
I don’t want to spoil too much but this book confirms some ships. There’s a lot more romance in this novel, including some LGBTQTIA+ relationships.
If you could have one of the magical powers from your book, which would you choose?
There are a lot of powers to choose from. We’ve got Fire Weavers who can do fire elemental magic and Ice Chanters who can perform the ice equivalent. We also have a character who can alter their appearance and cheat death, and Animen who turn into animals. What else? Swift helps you move fast, Fortune helps you see a few steps ahead into the future, Understanding can help you detect lies, and Entice can convince others to bend their wills to fit yours.
So out of all of those abilities, I think I’d like Fortune because I often feel anxious about the future. Even seeing a few steps ahead would help me feel more confident about my choices.
Do you hide secrets in your books that only a few people will find?
I’m not sure what other authors do but I’ve decided to put a phrase or two in every novel I ever do—just as an Easter egg. You know how just about every Star Wars movie has someone say “I have a bad feeling about this”? Yeah, my equivalent is “Oh my days.” I hope you enjoy finding these gems!
What is the key theme/message from Destiny Seeker: The Defender?
Mental health is a huge theme in this book. Ilsi and her friends went through a lot in Messenger and rather than just shaking it off like some fantasy characters, they need time to grieve, heal, and grow.
Another theme is moral agency. Althod is all about charming and controlling people to do his will and creating forced unity. Lady Ladala is all about letting people be themselves—even if they disagree with her.
Does one of your main characters hold a special place in your heart? If so, why?
Ilsi is my obvious answer. Talk about being my imaginary friend since middle school! haha Ilsi’s personality, morals, and abilities grew with me. Ilsi has always been my hero and I hope I’ve done her story justice.
Author Life Questions
How did you first get into writing? Why YA fantasy?
I wrote a whole blog post with all the details but the short version is that I wrote some Sailor Moon fanfiction as a kid, I read a lot of YA fantasy, and ultimately enjoyed writing as a hobby. I decided from a young age that I wanted to publish a book because that sounded amazing to have something you could find at the library.
Where do you get inspiration for your books?
I tend to get story ideas by reading a lot and brainstorming ideas that I don’t see very much in mainstream fiction. I think most authors do the same. For stories like Throwaway Queen, I actually had an intense dream through my MC’s eyes. I tend to write down any and all interesting dreams to see if I can glean any nuggets from them.
How do you juggle working full-time, being a wife, and writing?
That’s tricky, isn’t it? I mean, shout out to all you parents who are also taking care of children or pets. I don’t feel like I juggle everything all the time; I’m not good at multi-tasking. So if I want to exercise, maintain the household, spend time with others, sleep, work full-time, and catch up on WandaVision, I have to set monthly or weekly goals. If I based my success on how well I meet my daily goals, I’d give up.
So some days, I work on writing stuff, and other days, I’m focused on exercising. I only have so much free time each day and I try to at least accomplish one thing each day.
It also helps that Travis is a creative soul and understands the time and energy it takes to write, edit, publish, and market my books. We often spend a few hours each day working on our personal projects but in the same area. We try to understand each other’s interests and goals so we can offer help or encouragement.
How did publishing your first book change your writing process?
My short answer is that I took my time, especially with rewrites and edits. When I published in 2018, I had technically been working on my series for almost 2 decades—I absolutely wanted to finally publish. Unfortunately, my first edition had some embarrassing typos. I released a second edition in 2019 to correct some mistakes.
So with my sequel, I did not want to go through that again. I spent more time on the editing and beta reading steps than expected and I’m glad I did. I also knew how much time and effort it would take to talk about my books, so I scheduled way more marketing posts.
What would you say is your interesting writing quirk?
Interesting writing quirk? Possibly creating stories with a 98% female cast!
If you could tell your younger writing self anything, what would it be?
Oh, baby Whitney. For the most part, I would tell her that she’s already doing a lot of good things. She hardly did anything wrong as far as what early writers should do.
The one thing I’d tell her is that there’s no sense in comparing her success with others. She wanted to be a young published author and was jealous of anyone who published in their late teens/early twenties. Publishing is a strange journey for every author and the best time to publish is when your book is ready. I’m glad my books were published now versus a decade ago.
Throughout this process, what have you been most proud of yourself for doing?
Oh my days. Well, when you’re starting out as a newly-published author, you might think that I’m making all these sales and everyone knows who I am. That’s not true; I’ll probably need about 5 books or more before people really know about me. So I’m proud of myself for sticking with it, writing what makes me happy, marketing like my books deserve to be read, and continuing to write even though it’s really difficult to do a lot of this work myself. I know the hard work will pay off.
What’s next for you in your publishing journey? What book will you be writing next?
Now that I’ve finished this duology, I’m ready to branch out to other genres. I’m currently working on rewriting and polishing The Throwaway Queen, a new adult fantasy novel. New adult means that it addresses life experiences most folks experience in their 20s. I’ve also got a fairy tale retelling and an author branding WIP on the horizon. I probably won’t publish during 2021—I’m thinking I’ll start a cycle of writing for one calendar year and publishing the other.
Additional Fun Questions
What is your favorite under-appreciated novel?
My funny answer is my own books. My real answer is Rogue Princess by B. R. Myers. I don’t hear enough people talking about it but it rivals Cinder as possibly the best Cinderella retelling.
Has Travis read your books?
Yes! Travis is the only one who has read early versions of my DS series and got a front-row seat to my writing journey. He also edits my books. It’s nice to have someone like him to edit my books.
What is your favorite video game to play as a couple?
Travis tends to play the games and I watch. A few years ago, we played Fable 3 together and it was so much fun! Other games include the Just Dance games, Ring Fit, Mario Party, and Lovers in a Dangerous Spacetime.
When did you first conceive of the idea for your book series?
I explained this in my author journey post in more detail, but the short version is that I watched The 10th Kingdom as a preteen and I don’t know, I just felt like I wanted to write a scene based on a scene featuring Wolf. The rest of the series blossomed around that scene. From the very beginning, I had major pantser vibes.
2 comments on “Q&A With Author Whitney McGruder”
I crushed on Wolf SO HARD.
Move over, Edward, am I right? It’s been a while since I’ve watched The 10th Kingdom but Wolf seemed like the mysterious cutie but also genuinely cared for Virginia. He was certainly overzealous at times but he wasn’t like “I’m mean and hot.”