Mindee Arnett is the author of the young adult fantasy thriller The Nightmare Affair, which will hit bookstores in March. Mindee lives in Ohio with her husband, children, and many animals. She has participated in Civil War reennactments, broken her nose twice, and loves riding horses.
Could you tell us five random facts about yourself?
1. I’m a Whedonite and Whovian.
2. I’m also horse crazy and equal parts cat person, dog person.
3. Both my kids were born on the same day, two years apart. And no, it wasn’t planned.
4. After college, I went through a period when I really wanted to become a police officer. Then I realized that I would never have the heart to give someone a speeding ticket. Not to mention that I’m vertically challenged.
5. My main character and I share the same vice for Mountain Dew.
Tell us about your journey to becoming a writer.
I wrote my first short story in the sixth grade as a homework assignment. I’d always been an avid reader, but never before had it occurred to me that I could write my own stories. Needless to say that assignment changed my life. I’ve been writing ever since. I kept at the shorts through high school and into college, eventually publishing a couple. Then during graduate school I decided to give novel writing a go. Four trunk novels later, I wrote The Nightmare Affair.
What has surprised you about writing and publishing?
Probably how slow it is. I’d heard that before, but you don’t really understand what it means until you’ve gone through the long wait for your first novel to be published.
Why do you feel drawn to the stories you write?
I am a sci-fi/fantasy loving geek to the core. I cut my teeth on Star Trek and Star Wars, loving them both equally. I still know The Neverending Story, The Dark Crystal, and Labyrinth by heart, and my reccurring nightmare as a child was of Medusa from Clash of the Titans living in my basement. I guess it’s safe to say I never grew out of that love. If anything, it’s grown even stronger.
What has been the toughest criticism given to you as an author?
She will kill me for saying this, but the hardest was after my mom read The Nightmare Affair for the first time and told me she hated it. She didn’t actually mean it — it was a very bad attempt at a joke. What she was really saying was that the book wasn’t for her. She’s a huge mystery reader with little interest in fantasy. We joke about it now, but it was still a tough moment. I think it helped prepare me for reviews.
What has been the best compliment you’ve received?
The very first time I ever spoke to my agent on the phone when she told me that she basically wanted to write fan-fiction about The Nightmare Affair because she loved it so much. That was the day she offered representation. Pretty much the best day of my writing life.
Where’s your favorite place to write?
My absolute favorite is the back deck at my house, after dark during the summer. We have a pretty awesome water feature out there — a large koi pond and a small creek that attracts a lot of bullfrogs. It’s pretty magical.
What is one thing you wish you’d known when you sat down to write your novel?
The correct usage of ‘which’ and ‘that.’ At least, I think my copy editor wishes I had known it. I’m kidding, mostly. I don’t really have an answer to that question.
How do you approach writing villains or antagonists?
Once I’ve identified the villain, something that doesn’t always happen right away, I do my best to try and understand why they’re bad, what their character motivation is. I have a really hard time embracing villains that are just fundamentally evil. For me, I’m drawn to villains who earnestly believe in their own righteousness and goodness. Like Magneto. He’s one bad dude, no doubt, but his logic and motivations are chillingly understandable.
How do you construct the world and tonal environment of your story?
I’m a build-as-I-go writer when it comes to creating the world, and most of it is driven by my characters and their backstory. In The Nightmare Affair, for instance, there is a lot of racial-like conflict among the various groups of magickind, and the primary reason why it’s there is because my main character, Dusty, is half-human, half-nightmare. I had to answer the question of what kind of world would produce a person like that.
Which is easier to write: The first line or the last line?
Definitely the last. I love endings. I’m all about the payoff.
What is your favorite chapter or scene you’ve written recently?
My favorite scene in The Nightmare Affair is definitely the climax, which takes place in chapters 23 and 24. My favorite recent scene is the very last one in the sequel to The Nightmare Affair. I can’t really say anything about it, other than that it gave me all the feels in a big way.
Which one YA novel do you wish you had when you were a teen?
The Daughter of Smoke and Bone by Laini Taylor, along with the sequel, Days of Blood and Starlight. The story, the language, the locale, is all breathtaking. And as a teen I would’ve been obsessed by the tragic love affair between Akiva and Karou. I even might be a little obsessed with it as an adult.
Do you have things you need in order to write (i.e. coffee, cupcakes, music)?
This is the most boring answer ever, but the truth is the only thing I need to write is sleep. Being tired is the kiss of death for me when it comes to trying to engage my imagination.
What are you working on now?
I’m expecting edits for the sequel to The Nightmare Affair any day, and in the
meantime I’m drafting the prequel novella to my YA sci-fi thriller Avalon, which debuts winter 2014 from Balzer + Bray (HarperCollins).
Bonus Question! Would you rather be a book or a computer?
This is totally sacrilege, but I’d have to go with computer. But only becomes a computer has the ability to store thousands of books on it — best of both worlds.
Thanks for speaking with us, Mindee!
Thanks so much for having me here!
About ‘The Nightmare Affair’:
Sixteen-year-old Dusty Everhart breaks into houses late at night, but not because she’s a criminal. No, she’s a Nightmare.
Being the only Nightmare at Arkwell Academy, a boarding school for magickind, and living in the shadow of her mother’s infamy, is hard enough. But when Dusty sneaks into Eli Booker’s house, things get a whole lot more complicated. He’s hot, which means sitting on his chest and invading his dreams couldn’t get much more embarrassing. But it does. Eli is dreaming of a murder.
Then Eli’s dream comes true.
Now Dusty has to follow the clues — both within Eli’s dreams and out of them — to stop the killer before more people turn up dead. And before the killer learns what she’s up to and marks her as the next target.
For more about Mindee Arnett:
The Nightmare Affair (the first in the Arkwell Academy series) will be released on March 5, and is available for pre-order from Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and other booksellers. The first chapter is available to read at Tor.com. Mindee’s next novel, Avalon, will be released in 2014.