Madeline Dyer may seem like your typical third-year English student, but she’s also a published author. Her first novel, Untamed, was published in May 2015, and has made it onto Amazon UK’s bestseller list for dystopian novels. I asked her a few questions about her inspiration and journey.
Can you give us a glimpse as to what your novel is about?
Sure! Untamed is a dystopian story of addiction, betrayal, and survival. It’s got some pretty dark content in it, including torture scenes—but there are some lighter moments too. A few people have classed it as ‘Mad Max meets The Hunger Games’.
The official hook is: When an Untamed girl is kidnapped and converted by the Enhanced Ones, she must remember who she was meant to be or else risk the extinction of her people.
“MAD MAX MEETS THE HUNGER GAMES”
What was the spark that made you want to start writing Untamed?
I’ve always loved writing, and Untamed was the third manuscript I completed. It started off as a bit of an experiment, as my first two were fantasy, but I soon realised how much I loved writing dystopian fiction, and couldn’t stop exploring the Untamed world.
The actual premise of the novel was inspired by a scene from the music video from “La La La” by Naughty Boy ft. Sam Smith, where a piece of meat that looked a lot like a human heart was being sold at a market, and I just started thinking about which emotions were linked to the heart. And then I thought: what if someone could just walk into a market and buy the emotions that they want to feel? What if you could control what others feel? And so Untamed began…
Why dystopian fiction? We’ve all heard of big names like Margaret Atwood and George Orwell but which authors have influenced you the most?
I love the rawness that dystopian fiction has, and how this genre exposes real problems that currently exist in our world. Dystopian societies tend to magnify one aspect of a real-life issue, blowing it completely out of proportion, to show the negative consequences this has on specific groups of people. I think this way of exposing current political and social issues makes these matters accessible to everyone. Dystopian fiction doesn’t tend to be preachy, but there nearly always is some kind of moral message that can be taken away. I think the most crucial thing about a dystopian world is how it interacts with the real world—how it makes us think and view everyday things in a different light, how it makes us wonder if we’re bordering on the development of our own dystopian society. Or maybe we already live in one…
I love Margaret Atwood’s books, and the first dystopian novel I read was Aldous Huxley’s Brave New World, but one of my favourite dystopian authors has to be Teri Terry—her books have definitely influenced me.
What are the challenges in creating an intricate and alternative world for your characters to live in? I’m guessing you spent many hours behind a desk in order to formulate your ideas…
World-building is one of my favourite parts of writing! Once I had the premise for Untamed, I set about creating and developing the rules of the world. In some ways, this was tricky, as I had to make sure there were no contradictions or holes. And I wanted it to seem realistic and believable. I needed to know everything about the world my characters inhabited. It was definitely challenging!
“It still amazes me to think that people are reading my novel!”
Have you found it difficult to juggle your studies alongside writing? To have already been published at such a young age is mind-blowingly impressive!
Thank you! The short answer is definitely yes. It’s probably the hardest thing. In theory, I try to balance it so I write in the holidays, and concentrate on my studies during semesters—although this never really happens, as I just love writing, and often find myself drafting out scenes when I should be studying. I think the hardest time to juggle everything was during the second year, as my publisher’s schedule meant I was working on in-house edits for Untamed for the whole of the second term! It was definitely difficult getting all the reading and assignments for my modules done. But I actually really enjoyed the editorial process — my editor was fabulous.
What was it like to get your hands on a physical copy of your book for the first time?
It felt amazing! Up until that point, my book hadn’t really felt ‘real’ — even though I’d proofread and checked the galleys for both the ebook and the paperback, it still hadn’t hit me until my box of author copies arrived.
What has been the most exciting moment following the publication of Untamed?
I think the day I received my first letter from an excited fan (one I didn’t know!) was the most exciting moment. It still amazes me to think that people are reading my novel!
What more can we expect from Madeline Dyer? J. K. Rowling has left quite a legacy, can you see people wandering campus envisaging the places that inspired you?
I’ve signed a book deal with Prizm Books, and my second novel, Fragmented, is due to release 7 September 2016. I haven’t thought about people wandering around campus envisaging the places that inspired elements of my fiction… but it’s definitely an exciting thing to think about!bookmark me