Sweet Sixteener Sonya Mukherjee recently spoke to Fearless Fifteener Dawn Ius about her YA contemporary debut novel, ANNE & HENRY (September 1, 2015 from Simon Pulse).
Dawn Ius is a short-story author, novelist, screenwriter, professional editor, and communications specialist. She is the Assistant Managing Editor of the International Thriller Writers Association’s monthly magazine, The Big Thrill, co-founder and senior editor of Vine Leaves Literary Journal, and the author of ten educational graphic novels published by the Alberta Canola Producers Commission. When she’s not slaying fictional monsters, she’s geeking out over fairy tales, Jack Bauer, Halloween, sports cars, and all things that go bump in the night. Dawn lives in Alberta, Canada, with her husband, Jeff, and their giant English Mastiff, Roarke. Dawn also writes paranormal young adult fiction under the last name Dalton.
In this creative retelling of the infamous—and torrid—love affair between Anne Boleyn and King Henry VIII, history collides with the present when a sizzling romance ignites in a modern-day high school.
Henry Tudor’s life has been mapped out since the day he was born. But ever since the death of his brother, the pressure for Henry to be perfect has doubled. And now he’s trapped: forbidden from pursuing a life as an artist or dating any girl who isn’t Tudor-approved. Then Anne Boleyn crashes into his life. Wild, brash, and outspoken, Anne is everything Henry isn’t allowed to be—or want. But soon Anne is all he can think about. Henry is willing to do anything to be with her, but once they’re together, will their romance destroy them both?
Sonya: Congratulations on ANNE & HENRY! This is such a delightful premise—bringing all the passion and intrigue of Henry VIII and Anne Boleyn’s romance into a contemporary high school setting. What drew you to this story?
Dawn: Thank you! My stepdad is obsessed with Anne Boleyn—to the point that he often regaled my sister and I with “stories” about her, most of the time defending her honor against anyone with less than favorable views. That might make him sound a bit crazy, but what I learned while writing this book is that he’s actually pretty tame. There are some passionate Anne Boleyn fans out there. The more I researched for this book, the more I “got it,” though—she was a formidable woman.
I also have a soft spot for doomed romances, and the true story of Henry and Anne is about as doomed as it gets. I mean, he cuts off her head.
Sonya: Your characters are based on real historical figures, but they’re living in a very different world. How closely did you base Anne and Henry on their namesakes?
Dawn: It was important for me to capture the spirit of the real life characters, and unfortunately, King Henry is more known for his wives than anything he did as a ruler. At the time Anne Boleyn entered his life, he was still just trying to have fun—despite the heavy weight of expectation on his shoulders. For a brief period of time, it almost seemed like he COULD change his destiny…and then, he kind of crumbled under pressure. The real Henry was a bit of an ass (sorry), which meant my Henry couldn’t come out of this story unscathed. He’s definitely not your typical YA hero.
I knew I wanted Anne to be bad-ass—strong, brave, with a “don’t give a crap” attitude. And yet, also vulnerable. I’ve come to appreciate Anne Boleyn even more since writing the book, but I also recognize she was flawed. There are so many unfounded rumors about her. In the end, I had to go with my gut and create a character that embodied which of those theories I believed. While there is certainly a lot more support for her than Henry (both in real life and in my novel), there are haters on both sides too.
Sonya: In addition to being a writer, you’re an experienced editor. Has that had an impact on your writing?
Dawn: I think it forces me to write “tighter”—which isn’t always a good thing. While most of my writer friends are being asked to cut words, my editor is telling me to add more. I generally start light on description and it’s not until the third or so revision that the setting comes to life. On the flip side, there are few superfluous words, and I think that lends itself to a faster-paced story. I’m still working on a balance. With my second book, OVERDRIVE, setting is really key, so I’ve been consciously including more details.
Sonya: What was your revision process like for this novel?
Dawn: I don’t even want to talk about the first chapter—which was rewritten almost a dozen times and involved a lot of wine. (No joke.) But overall, I love the revision process—it’s where the story really comes to life for me—and I had an amazing editor in Sara Sargent. She “got” the book, and every single suggestion was geared to helping me make it stronger. Under Sara’s gentle (but firm) guidance, I learned so much. Her teaching paid off too, because even though there is still a ton of work to do on OVERDRIVE, my first chapter for that book is probably the strongest thing I have ever written.
Lightning Round Questions:
Favorite song when you were sixteen?
No laughing— “Every Rose Has Its Thorn” by Poison.
Oddest job you ever had?
Fresh out of journalism school I landed a job as a publications editor for two very diverse magazines—one was for the local fashion industry, the other for pig farmers. One time, I literally drove from a tour of a massive hog farm to a fashion shoot almost two hours away. I changed into my dress and high heels at a gas station somewhere in between.
E-books or paper?
I appreciate e-books, but I’m a die-hard paper girl.
Favorite teen movie?
It would be a toss up between Lost Boys, The Princess Bride, The Breakfast Club and the Outsiders.
Favorite writing snack?
An IV of Diet Coke and a healthy stash of gummy bears. For revisions, I prefer wine.
About the Interviewer:
Sonya Mukherjee grew up in rural California sitting in trees, reading books, and writing stories in her head. She studied English and creative writing at Stanford and San Francisco State University, and went on to work as an editor for a variety of book publishers, magazines, and websites, from The Future of Children to Dirt Rider. Now she lives with her family in the San Francisco Bay Area, where she spends her time sitting in coffee shops, reading books, and writing stories on her laptop.
Her debut YA contemporary novel, GEMINI (coming 2016 from Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers) is about 17-year-old conjoined twins at a crossroads. Clara wants to stay close to home, avoid attention, and study the night sky. Her sister Hailey wants to travel the world, learn from great artists, and dance with mysterious boys. As high school graduation approaches, each twin must untangle her dreams from her sister’s and figure out what it means to be herself.