Today I have author Madeline Dyer here to talk about her Untamed Series, what inspired her to write such a dynamic post-apocalyptic story and what comes next.
Hi Madeline! When I think about stories, I’m always curious what inspired the author to create them. Was there a question that inspired you to write Untamed or Fragmented?
In writing Untamed, I wanted to get my readers to think about several things:
– If you could, would you choose to never feel anything negative?
– Do you need to experience negative emotions to truly be human?
– And what negative effects do you think choosing to only feel positive emotions would have on you as a person? But would you be aware of these negative effects if you could only feel positive things? If not, would that mean you were negatively effected at all—or would only others be able to see the bigger picture?
So, when I began writing the first draft, I had these questions written on the first page of my notebook. I really wanted to explore what it means to be human—and whether man’s quest to improve the human condition could do more damage than good in the end. But would we even realize the damage it’s doing?
For me, this is a fascinating topic, as quite often an individual cannot see a situation clearly and rationally if they are too involved. This is definitely evident in my novels, as the Enhanced Ones believe their lifestyle is better as they can only feel happiness and other positive emotions, but they don’t realize that they’ve sacrificed their humanity for it, and can’t see how robotic they’ve become. It’s only the Untamed who can see the full picture—yet the Enhanced are seeking out the Untamed in order to convert them, believing they’re doing the right thing by ‘saving’ them because the Untamed can’t see how they’re ‘suffering’ because of their negative emotions… and thus there’s the risk that everyone could lose their humanity.
The question that inspired me to write Fragmented, the sequel to Untamed, is a little different. I still wanted to look at the topic of human advancement and how ‘advancements’ could cause degeneration within—and the loss of—humanity, but I wanted to look at it from a different angle and focus more on the oppressed groups.
Whereas Untamed shows things from both the Enhanced Ones’ and the Untamed people’s points of view, Fragmented is much more focused on the oppressed group, and explores the lengths the Untamed have to go to in order to survive when the Enhanced are hunting them down.
Seven and Corin join the Zharat, one of the last surviving Untamed tribes, but their lifestyle comes as quite a shock. The Zharat are all about planning and sticking to rules—they have a very strict culture which they believe has allowed them to survive thus far—and their main goal is to expand their group, through reproduction, as quickly as possible, to increase their numbers.
So, I guess the questions in Fragmented are: How does an oppressed and ailing race fight back? And when your life is so focused on maintaining the survival of your people, are you really living at all?
The emotional aspects were some of my favorite parts of Untamed. I like how exploring those questions led to new questions in the sequel! Is there a scene or moment in one of your novels that really sticks with you? Can you tell us a little bit about it?
I think my favourite scene from book one is when Seven’s kidnapped at the beginning and brought back to the Enhanced Ones’ compound. Suddenly she’s bombarded by their way of life and can’t help comparing it to her own experiences as one of the oppressed Untamed. Yet, she’s also aware of the costs that the Enhanced lifestyle has on a person—on their soul, their humanity, their personality. She’s fighting to look at it all with a clear mind, yet knows that because she’s been force-fed some augmenters (artificial emotions) she can’t truly be looking at things in an objective way, no matter how much she thinks she is. And it’s this internal dilemma—and the conflict it instigates inside my main character as the novel progresses because she is unsure as to whether she can really trust that her thoughts and feelings are her own—that really fascinates me.
Definitely a fascinating concept. I love stuff like that. You also created a unique story world with some pretty intense challenges as well. What inspired the story world for Untamed and Fragmented? How did you go about creating that part of the story?
The idea for the world for my Untamed Series came to me when I was at my Nana’s house. The music channel was on TV and I looked up and saw the market scene from “La La La” by Naughty Boy, featuring Sam Smith. In this scene, what appears to be a human heart is being sold and that really stuck with me. I began thinking about what a human heart could represent—love, lust, etc—and then thought: What if someone could buy emotions, just as easily as they buy food and clothes? And thus the idea for the augmenters—the chemical, artificial emotions that the Enhanced Ones take in order to ensure they only feel positive things—was born.
At this point, I made many notes, and I soon realized I also wanted addiction to be a big part of this world too. Making the Enhanced Ones’ augmenters highly addictive (to the point where if you took one and became Enhanced, you couldn’t ever go back to a true Untamed state, as you were constantly craving the next fix, and had also associated the augmenters with safety) opened up a whole new level to the world—even more so when the addiction causes the Enhanced to want to ‘help’ the Untamed too, and spread their addiction, converting everyone.
Sounds like a really in-depth process. I love that. So now that you’re finished with the Untamed Series, what comes next for you? Your blog mentions a new project for spring of 2017 for Lift 4 Autism. Can you share how you got involved with the project?
Yes! My gothic fairy tale retelling, “The Curse of the Winged Wight”, will release on April 1, 2017 in Ever in the After: 13 Fantasy Tales, a print and ebook anthology where 100% of the proceeds will be donated to Lift 4 Autism. I’m so excited about this as I love writing fantasy stories.
I actually found out on October 11, 2016 that I had been selected to write for this anthology, which was a great message to receive… but it also meant I had to come up with a standalone short story pretty quickly! I’ve had 17 other short stories published before, but this one was the first one where I was contracted on proposal of an idea (before I’d actually written the piece)! I’m currently finishing up revisions to my story, and I’ve had a lot of fun working on it.
That’s really exciting! Congratulations on being selected. Writing is a lot of hard work. Is there something you most hope readers take away from your novels?
If readers feel they’ve been entertained by my writing, then I’m happy. Even better if they keep thinking about my world and my characters, and questioning what they themselves would do in the situations that my protagonist, Seven, goes through!
It’s a great sign when readers have your story stuck in their heads afterward. It’s been a long time since I read Untamed and there are still moments that stick in my head, too. I’m sure you hear the same from your readers. What is one question about your novel you are often asked by readers?
It’s a close call between, “When does the next book in the Untamed Series release?” and “How long does it take you to write a book?”
In answer to the first question, I haven’t yet got an official release date for Divided (Untamed #3) yet, as I’m still working on edits before I send the manuscript my publisher, but I’m hoping for a late 2017 release, with the final book of the series releasing in 2018.
And how long does it take me to write a book? Well, I tend to write fast first drafts. I can get a 90,000 word draft done in about four-to-six weeks. After that, I leave it for a few weeks, and then spend two-to-four months editing and rewriting it. When I’ve got a draft I’m happy with, my beta-readers review it for around a month, and tell me anything that confused them or didn’t seem quite right. Following that, I typically do another round of edits and proofread it before sending to my publisher.
But that’s only the start really! Once it’s contracted, we typically spend another three months editing it together in-house, until everyone is satisfied that it’s the best it possibly can be.
Sounds great. Thanks again for taking the time to share with us, Madeline!
About Madeline Dyer
Madeline Dyer lives in the southwest of England, and holds a BA honours degree in English from the University of Exeter. She has a strong love for anything dystopian, ghostly, or paranormal, and can frequently be found exploring wild places. At least one notebook is known to follow her wherever she goes. Her debut novel, Untamed (Prizm Books, May 2015), examines a world in which anyone who has negative emotions is hunted down, and a culture where addiction is encouraged. Her second novel, Fragmented, hits shelves in September 2016.
Untamed (Re-released 1/9/17)
As one of the last Untamed humans left in the world, Seven’s life has always been controlled by tight rules. Stay away from the Enhanced. Don’t question your leader. And, most importantly, never switch sides–because once you’re Enhanced there’s no going back. Even if you have become the perfect human being.
But after a disastrous raid on an Enhanced city, Seven soon finds herself in her enemy’s power. Realizing it’s only a matter of time before she too develops a taste for the chemical augmenters responsible for the erosion of humanity, Seven knows she must act quickly if she’s to escape and save her family from the same fate.
Fragmented (Releases late January 2017)
After the terrible battle against the Enhanced Ones, Seven and Corin find themselves on the run. With the Enhanced closing in, Seven knows they need to find other people on their side. So, when the opportunity arises to join the Zharat, one of the last surviving Untamed tribes, it seems like the perfect solution.
But the Zharat lifestyle is a far cry from what Seven’s used to. With their customs dictating that she must marry into their tribe, and her relationship with Corin breaking down, Seven knows she has to do something before it’s too late. But that’s easier said than done in a tribe where going against the rules automatically results in death.